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Sherry Scott

on 29 June 2014

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Transcript of Connectionism

What is Connectionism?
Another word for connectionism is quite simply trial and error. Thorndike conducted stimulus-response (S-R) experiments using trial and error with animals. His connectionism theory stated that, "learning was the formation of a connection between stimulus and response" (Learning Theories, n.d.). The theory in essence says that repsonses to specific stimuli that affects neural connections in a positive way will most likely lead to better learning than a negative response.

Sherry W. Scott
Summer, 2014 Page 1
Edward L. Thorndike

Who is the major theorist behind Connectionism?
Thorndike Quotable Quotes
Edward Thorndike, often called "the father of modern psychology" (Educational Psy., n.d.), was an American psychologist born in Williamsburg, Massachusetts on Aug. 31, 1874. His work was a major contribution to psychology and understanding learning processes and led to the theory connectionism. His doctoral dissertation entitled, "Animal Intelligence: An Experimental Study of the Associative Processes in Animals," was the first of its kind using animals instead of human subjects (Reinemeyer, 1999, para. 1).During his lifetime he wrote over 500 articles and books that provide valuable insight into learning instruction and techniques that can help in the classroom, even still today (Human, 2013, para. 4).

Video Biography of Edward. L. Thorndike
"Despite rapid progress in the right direction, the program of the average elementary school has been primarily devoted to teaching the fundamental subjects, the three R's, and closely related disciplines… Artificial exercises, like drills on phonetics, multiplication tables, and formal writing movements, are used to a wasteful degree. Subjects such as arithmetic, language, and history include content that is intrinsically of little value. Nearly every subject is enlarged unwisely to satisfy the academic ideal of thoroughness… Elimination of the unessential by scientific study, then, is one step in improving the curriculum." (Today in Science, n.d.)

"Psychology is the science of the intellects, characters and behavior of animals including man." (Brainyquote, n.d.)

"Just as the science and art of agriculture depend upon chemistry and botany, so the art of education depends upon physiology and psychology." (Brainyquote, n.d.)
1874~ The birth of Edward Lee Thorndike
1897~ Applied for graduate program at
Columbia University
1898~ Awarded his doctorate
1899~ Instructor in Psychology at Teachers
College, Columbia
1905~ Formalized the Law of Effect
1911~ Published "Animal Intelligence"
1912~ Elected President of American
Psychological Association
1917~ One of the first psychologist admitted to
the National Academy of Sciences
1921~ Ranked #1 as an American Men of
1934~ Elected Pres. of the American
Assoc. for the Advancement of Science
1939~ Retired
1949~ Thorndike died
(Reinemeyer, 1999, para. 7)
Sherry W. Scott
Summer, 2014 Page 2
How are Thorndikes theories applicable to educational practice today?
What are the key principles of Thorndike's Theory? Three Laws of Learning
Law of Exercise
Law of Readiness
Law of Effect
His most famous theory, the Law of Effect summized that learning will be more effective when followed by a positive effect or reward. He created a device called a "Puzzle Box" to prove this theory (Weibell, 2011).
The law of readiness deals with the subjects motivation, maturity level and ability to learn. In other words, a student will learn best when they are physically and mentally ready to learn, see the purpose or benefit in the learning, and are motivated to participate. The student will not be motivated to learn if they are not physically well, see no purpose or worth in the learning or have personal issues distracting their thoughts. (Instructional Resource, n.d.)
Watch this video to learn more.
Thorndike's research using cats in the puzzle box and his learning
theories are applicable in the classroom today in many ways such as, "Rewards promote learning, but punishments do not lead to learning, repetition enhances learning, and potential to learn needs to be satisfied" ("Learning Theories," n.d.).
He also stated that problems children are given should be realistic or
within their range of learning, should be learned in context or in real life situations, with repetition and scafflding. All of these are concepts still recommended in the classroom today.
Thorndike believed that animals learn by trial and error, or reward and
punishment and therefore humans learn the same way. If a student feels positive about the learning taking place, rather than negative, it is obvious to me that this leads to a more positve learning experience. Because of this, positive reinforcement, rather than negative reinforcement should be used in the classroom.

The Law of Exercise to me is common sense and similar to actual exercising. Practice improves your abilities, we learn best from repetition and we will forget if it is not practiced. A positive connection between a stimulus-response is strengthened the more often it occurs, the same as a
muscle gets
stronger when
it is exercised.
(Edward Thorndike,

Thorndike Time Line
Brainyquote. (n.d.). In BrainyQuote. Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/e/edward_thorndike.html

Eduational Psy. (n.d.). in Psychology Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://psychology.jrank.org/pages/204/Educational-Psychology.html

Edward Thorndike. (n.d.). In Child-Development-Guide.com. Retrieved from: http://www.child-development-guide.com/edward-thorndike.html#top.html

Fi3021's. (2011, October 11). Thorndike - Law of Effect (Video file). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watchv=Vk6H7Ukp6To&list=PLIm9eRHgDL95nftWb5mBPgFuOopls4zOJ

Instructional resource Library, (n.d.). In The Drill Pad. Retrieved from:

Learning Theories, (n.d.). Penn State Personal Web Server. Retrieved from:

Plucker, J. A. (Ed.). (2013). Human intelligence: Historical influences, current
controversies, teaching resources. Retrieved from: http://www.intelltheory.com/ethorndike.shtml

Reinemeyer, E. (1999). Edward Lee Thorndike, Retrieved from:

Today in Science. (n.d.). In TODAYINSCI. Retrieved from http:

Weibell, C. J. (2011). Principles of learning: 7 principles to guide
personalized, student-centered learning in the technology-enhanced, blended learning environment. Retrieved from: http://principlesoflearning.wordpress.com/dissertation/chapter-3-literature-review-2/the-behavioral-perspective/connectionism-edward-l-thorndike-%E2%80%93-1898/

Wolfe, A. (2011, June 15). Learning Theorist Biography: Edward L. Thorndike (Video file). Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCr0g
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