Sarabeth Berk: Learning Designer/Artist/Researcher

Connectionist Theory of Learning

“From these, Thorndike proposed several “laws” concerning the bonds between stimuli and responses, which he labeled the Connectionism Theory of Learning. Though Thorndike’s work appears quite similar to Ivan Pavlov’s 1902 law of reinforcement, the two studies appear to be a case of simultaneous independent discovery. Pavlov (1928) himself wrote, “I must acknowledge that the honor of having made the first steps along the path belongs to E. L. Thorndike.” http://www.kdp.org/meetourlaureates/laureates/edwardthorndike.php

“Connectionism, today defined as an approach in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, cognitive science and philosophy of mind which models mental or behavioral phenomena with networks of simple units1), is not a theory in frames of behaviorism, but it preceded and influenced behaviorist school of thought. Connectionism represents psychology’s first comprehensive theory of learning2). It was introduced by Herbert Spencer, William James and his student Edward Thorndike in the very beginning of the 20th century although its roots date way back.

Connectionism was based on principles of associationism, mostly claiming that elements or ideas become associated with one another through experience and that complex ideas can be explained through a set of simple rules. But connectionism further expanded these assumptions and introduced ideas like distributed representations and supervised learning3) and should not be confused with associationism.

Thorndike, the most commonly cited connectionist, summed his ideas on learning into three laws of learning, which should have accounted for both human and animal learning:4) ” http://teorije-ucenja.zesoi.fer.hr/doku.php?id=learning_theories:connectionism

Connectionism is a set of approaches in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and philosophy of mind, that models mental or behavioral phenomena as the emergent processes of interconnected networks of simple units. There are many forms of connectionism, but the most common forms use neural network models. (Wikipedia)

Estes, W. K. (1992). From learning theory to connectionist theory (Vol. 2). A. F. Healy, S. M. Kosslyn, & R. M. Shiffrin (Eds.). Psychology Press.

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