Human Learning

By Edward L. Thorndike; Richard M. Elliott | Go to book overview

Lecture 10
THINKING AND REASONING

IN much of human behavior, especially in purposive thinking and problem-solving, there is coöperative action of many connections. Under the guidance of some mental set, many tendencies start working; some of the responses produced thereby are discarded altogether; some are put aside to be given influence later; some are used together to determine the next step.

The best way for us to realize the nature of this cooperative action will be to study its products in some representative case. The case which I have chosen is the understanding of connected discourse, sentences and paragraphs.

In the hearing or reading of a paragraph, the connections from the words singly and from various phrases somehow coöperate to give certain total meanings. If some questions about the paragraph are answered, the answers provide useful material for studying the coöperation and organization of these connections. Consider for example the responses made by 200 pupils in grade 6 to the following paragraph and question:


J.

Read this and then write the answers to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Read it again as often as you need to.

In Franklin, attendance upon school is required of every child between the ages of seven and fourteen on every day when school is in session unless the child is so ill as to be unable to go to school, or some person in his house is ill with a contagious disease, or the roads are impassable.

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