Thorndike’s Trial and Error Theory of Learning (Explained)

What is the Trial and Error Learning?

Trial and error learning is learning from multiple attempts. Here to seek out an answer multiple attempts are made after the primary attempt if an answer isn’t found, another attempt is being made, and still not found solution another attempt is additionally being made, then on until unless an answer is found.

In other words, consistent with the trial and error method learning is that the stamping of correct responses and stamping out incorrect responses.

Edward Lee Thorndike, an American psychologist, is that the first promoter of Trial and Error learning. it’s also called Thorndike’s trial and error theory of learning. he’s known for his works on animal psychology and academic psychology. He studied learning this theory employing a cat through the “puzzle box.”

This theory falls under the category of behavioristic theories and follows the stimulus-response theory. Thorndike says “Learning is connecting, the mind is man’s connection system”. Learning is caused by the formation of a connection between stimuli and response.

This theory of learning usually takes place in trial and error. As its name suggests, to seek out an answer we usually need to undergo trials and errors. to urge to the answer we made the amount random of trials because the number of trials increases errors are decreased. the most idea of trial and error learning is “several trials end in decreased errors.”

Experiment on A Cat

Thorndike’s experiments on a cat. He put a hungry cat in a puzzle box with just one door for the exit that would be opened only by correctly manipulating a latch (lock/key) and a fish was placed outside of the box. The smell of fish acted as a robust motive for the hungry cat to return out of the box.

Initially, the cat randomly moved inside the box, he consequently made every possible effort to return out of the box. He made several random movements like squeezing, biting the walls, clawing, and dashing, etc. however nothings work at all. But in one among the random movements, by chance, the latch was manipulated. The cat came out and got rewarded for the fish.

within the next trial, again an equivalent hungry cat was put within the same puzzle box, and out of doors a fish. The fish and its smell again worked as a motive for getting out of the box for the cat. He made again random movements. But at this point, he took less time in the beginning. On subsequent trials like incorrect responses, biting, clawing, and dashing were gradually diminished and therefore the cat took less time on every succeeding trial. within the course of the experiment, the cat was during a position to press or manipulate the latch as soon as he was put within the box.

Thorndike's Cat Experiment

This way, gradually, the cat learned the art of opening the door.

The cat learned to open the door and it had been possible only after the number of random trials and errors the Thorndike’s concluded.

Laws of Thorndike’s Trial and Error Theory

Supporting the trial and error theory of learning Thorndike gave three fundamental laws of learning. The laws are as follows:

Laws of Readiness

As its name suggests to find out something a learner must be able to learn. If he’s not able to learn the teaching efforts made by others would be worthless. Suppose if you’re able to find out how to play football well you would possibly learn more quickly with greater satisfaction rather than forced by others. So in learning self-interest is vital.

Law of Exercise

Another law is that the law of exercise. This law of Thorndike’s states that learning becomes efficient after practicing or exercising regularly and becomes weak after the trial or practicing is discontinued. Just take an example of football if you often practice your connection would be strengthened and if you stop practicing for an extended time the connection would be weakened.

It has also two parts:

  • Law of use: This law suggests that the connection between stimulus and response would be strong after its occurrence, use or practice.
  • Law of disuse: This law suggests that the connection between stimulus and response would be decreased without practicing or use.

Law of Effect

This law states that if the result after trial and error is satisfying the strength of learning is increased. If the result’s annoying the strength is reduced. Simply understand, once you get what you expected to urge from learning your motivation of learning is going to be increased, and once you didn’t get the expected results your motivation would be decreased. So this law is that the effect of results after trials and errors.

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