What is Thorndike’s Law of Effect?

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Edward Lee Thorndike was an American psychologist who undertook experiments with animals like cats, dogs, and chicks to come up with Thorndike’s Law of Effect. 

It is one of the major laws of learning by Thorndike that emphasizes that animals or humans behave in a certain way due to the connections they build with various external stimuli. 

Thorndike’ Law of Effect?

Edward Thorndike’s law of effect states that an association between a stimulus and response becomes stronger if the outcome of such a stimulus is rewarding or satisfactory. 

In the similar way, the association between a stimulus and a response becomes weak if such a stimulus leads to a non-satisfactory outcome. Thus, as per Edward Lee Thorndike, behaviorism is nothing but cooperation between a stimulus and a response. 

Thus, humans act or respond based on their vulnerability to a host of complicated stimuli. In addition to this, these responses build eventually, over the life of an individual. And such responses start with the reactions inherent to humans such as fear. 

Edward Lee Thorndike formulated this law after conducting the famous experiment in which he used cats in a puzzle box. This puzzle box had a loop that the cat could pull and have the food that lay outside the box. Now, the cat tried a number of actions, all of which went in vain. For example, it clawed at the sides of the box. However, as it kept trying the number of unsuccessful acts decreased and eventually was successful in pulling the loop to go out of the puzzle box and have food. 

Example of Law of Effect by Thorndike 

Let’s take an event from real life for the law of effect Thorndike example. Say, you want to find out the way to your friend’s home as you’re visiting her for the first time. Here, you have a need of finding the way that will motivate you to undertake an action so that you can fulfill this need. Next comes the goal in the situation. Here, your goal is to find the way to your friend’s place. Further, there is a block or an obstacle in meeting your goal. That is, you don’t know the way and will have to learn various ways in which you can reach your destination. For example, you may use Google Maps, ask your friend to guide you, or take someone along who knows the way. 

Now, to reach your destination successfully, you will have to randomly implement any of the above techniques. Then with time, you ignore actions or responses that do not help you much with achieving your goal and implement actions that will help you achieve your goal of finding a way to any new destination the next time. Thus, you will follow the same steps the next time you need to locate a destination. 

Edward Thorndike Contribution to Education

 Edward Thorndike’s contribution to education has been critical. Through his theory of learning, he pronounced the method of teaching that should be adopted in schools for effective learning. 

For instance, he claimed that a child will learn appropriately if the result of such learning brings satisfaction to him/her. Such satisfaction makes the child feel fulfilled. 

Likewise, a child will learn inappropriately if the result of such learning brings dissatisfaction for him/her. Such dissatisfaction leads to the child facing failures. 

Thus, here are certain points that Edward Thorndike came up with for the way education should be imparted. 

  • He believed that the method of teaching should be such that each child gets a proper environment to boost his capacity of learning. Further, each child must also have access to good quality education. 
  • Next, he claimed that teachers must share a fruitful relationship with the students. This can only be achieved if teachers understand the needs, wants, and interests of the students. 
  • In addition to this, he also emphasized on the quality and standard of the school. He was of the view that methods adopted for teaching should be very organized and transparent so that everything runs smoothly. 
  • Finally, schools must put into practice innovative ways of teaching that lay emphasis on creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. 
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By Michael Caine

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