Associative Learning

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Associative Learning Draft
Kenneth Price
PSY 331 Psychology of Learning
Laura Prout
July 18, 2010
Associative Learning
Perhaps it might be said that a burden has been place on every living thing that it must adapt or perish as no single life form, as we know it, is truly an island unto its self. How living things accomplish this adaptation is unique not only to each species but may also be unique to each living entity. One may debate whether this is the product of grand design or billions of years of evolutionary progress, nonetheless, each must adapt or die.

It should not be construed that this burden to change has not also been accompanied by the rewards associated with such change; perhaps a biological version of yin and yang. Whether we chose to describe these processes in broad philosophical terms or from a purely scientific platform, the end result is indicative of a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to survival. For some, this is not done through cognitive processes. Nonetheless, all living things have some means to perceive their environment. While the tools to accomplish this vary greatly, perception is elemental to adaptation. How life senses its environment is the beginning of this process.

For humans, this perception of the world revolves around the use of five senses in which we gather information about the world around us. These abilities, given in different measure, were recognized by Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) and have not changed since. Aristotle believed that the five senses; hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching provided the information on which learning is based (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009, p. 31). His belief that all knowledge is acquired through these senses is known today as empiricistic. While much of Aristotle’s philosophy in regard to sensory based learning, has remained intact, there are new technological and scientific advances being made which may shake the Associationistic paradigm, as well as other theories, at the very core of their foundation. However, Aristotle’s original observation of regarding the human sensory apparatus has not changed in the last 2300 years. His writings also contributed to “conceptions of memory, thinking and learning” (Weimer, 1973). And according to Weimer, “Aristotle’s doctrines” are fundamental components of contemporary thought in the psychology of learning. However, Weimer was not only speaking of the sensory apparatus accredited to Aristotle, he was referring to the four components of the Associationistic perspective. Aristotle is also credited for having identified the principal elements of this perspective which he referred to as his “laws of association” which lie at the heart of all learning theories. Aristotle’s Laws of Association

Aristotle believed that the sensory information gathered from one’s environment provided the basis of all knowledge. In part, this might be attributed to his commitment to empirical evidence which he used to write of both physical and biological processes. He also believed that sensory information represented the beginning of knowledge and posited that the mind must excogitate meaning from the empirical evidence. According to Aristotle, sensory information and rationale provide the basis for knowledge. He did not believe that the laws that govern the empirical world such as space, time and infinity could be known through sensory apparatuses. It was Aristotle who articulated the “Laws of Association” which consisted of three laws; the law of similarity, the law of contrast and the law of contiguity. The law of similarity states that the recall of one object will kindle the recall of things similar to that object. The law of contrast works conversely arousing thoughts of opposite objects while the law of contiguity evokes the recall of things which were experienced along with the original recalled object. Aristotle also observed the more frequently two things were simultaneously experienced the more likely...
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