Associationism (Aristotle – 350 B.C.E)

Aristotle’s writings on learning—already covered in the foregoing review of behavioral learning theory—could very arguably be considered a much better fit for cognitive learning theory, especially with the focus of his learning-related writings on memory and recall. Ultimately, it was the predominant application of his laws of association[1]to habit formation in the mid-to-late 1800s and the early 1900s that led me to include his ideas with those of the behaviorists. However, the same laws of association, and many of his other ideas that have been preserved through history, are also deeply embedded within the core of contemporary cognitive learning theory. His thoughts on the nature of practice, the gradation of attainment over time, the representation of concepts in memory through images, and the seal-ring stamping of memories, all clearly apply to the acquisition of knowledge—as do his ideas on the need for repetition in varying degrees, the value of orderly arrangement, the role of pleasure and paint in motivation, the increase of capacity and potential through education and habituation, and the linking of mental concepts. Since these have already been discussed, the reader is referred to the review of behavioral learning theory in the preceding section for further detail, source quotations, and references.


[1] Both by Aristotle himself, and by behavioral psychologists since the time of Thorndike (as evidenced by his opening statement in the intro to Animal Intelligence (1898, p. 1)).

 

The Cognitive PerspectiveMemory and forgetting (Hermann Ebbinghaus – 1885) >

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