PSYCH305: The Psychology of Learning and Behavior

Unit 3: E.L. Thorndike: The Original Connectionism   E.L. Thorndike is an important figure in learning theory.  Thorndike had many original contributions and was seen as a pioneer among pioneers.  A few of his many notable contributions include The Law of Effect, psychological connectionism and intellectual measurement.  The Law of Effect demonstrated that satisfaction after responses strengthened the likelihood of response.  Additionally, Thorndike’s psychological connectionism was a highly influential perspective.   The emphasis was on the internal neural transactions or connections were formed between perceived stimuli and emitted responses.  Indeed, how effectively an organism could develop these connections was the foundation of intellect.  This emphasis on connections was also externalized.  He did not believe that intelligence could be measured independently of culture.  We can find the threads of much of thinking within many contemporary areas of learning and general psychology.

Unit 3 Time Advisory
This unit will take 6 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 3.1: 4.0 hours

☐    Subunit 3.2: 2.0 hours

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Describe the major contributions of E. L. Thorndike.
  • Place Thorndike’s contributions on the historical timeline of learning theory and general psychology.
  • Explain both the “Law of Effect” and psychological connectionism.
  • Describe the categories of human intellect as espoused by Thorndike.

3.1 Thorndike: Life and Contributions   - Reading: University of Indiana: Human Intelligence Project’s “Edward L. Thorndike: Life and Concepts” Link: University of Indiana: Human Intelligence Project’s Edward L. Thorndike: Life and Concepts (HTML)
Instructions: This overview has many facts on the life and contributions of Thorndike.  Additionally, it gives an excellent review of his most seminal contributions and offers linkages between his contributions and contemporary psychology.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of used on the page above.

3.2 The Law of Effect   - Web Media: YouTube: jenningh’s “Thorndike’s Puzzle Box” Link: YouTube: jenningh’s "Thorndike’s Puzzle Box" (YouTube)
Instructions: Please watch this brief 2-minute video on Thorndike’s research with cat training.  It helps to clarify the Law of Effect based on animal research.  It also explains his rejection of insight as a foundation of learning and his emphasis on trial and error and reward.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the page above.