Thorndike

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Edward Lee Thorndike was a son of a Methodist minister in Lowell, Massachusetts. He became an American pioneer in comparative psychology and was a typical late 19th century American scientist. He grew up in an age when scientific psychology was establishing its place in academic institutions and attracting college graduates, Thorndike being one of them. He became interested in the field of psychology after reading William Jame's "Principles of Psychology" and after graduating from Weslyan University enrolled at Harvard in order to study under James. His research interest was with children, but his initial study of "mind reading" led to their unavailability for future study. So, he developed projects that examined learning in animals to satisfy requirements for his courses and degree. He completed a study of maze learning in chicks, but for personal reasons, Thorndike did not complete his education at Harvard. Cattell invited him to go to Columbia University where he continued his animal research. He switched from chicks to cats and dogs, and made good use out of his own designed "puzzled boxes." In 1898, he was awarded the doctorate for his thesis, "Animal Intelligence: An Experimental Study of the Associative Processes in Animals", in which he concluded that an experimental approach is the only way to understand learning and established his famous "Law of Effect". One of Thorndike's major contributions to the study of Psychology was his work with animals. Through long, extensive research with these animals, he constructed devices called "puzzle boxes." This devise is shown in figure 1. This work on animal intelligence used equipment that became both famous and controversial. Thorndike's setup of the puzzle boxes is an example of instrumental conditioning: An animal makes some response, and if it is rewarded, the response is learned. If the response is not rewarded, it gradually disappears. The entire experiment was based on animals being placed into these...
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