definitions of the law of exercise(jb watson) and law of effect (Thorndike) : LUSENET : History & Theory of Psychology : One Thread

Could you please give me the principles of the law of effect (jb watson) and the law of effect (thorndike)?

-- joanne parkinson (, September 26, 2001


Hi Joanne, OK the overall topic we are addressing here is Learning Theory. If you remember, learning is any permanent change in behavior that isn't the result of illness or fatgue. Sooner or later, you've got to ask the question, how does learning occur? And that is what I think you are concerned with here, comparing the Law of Exercise vs. the Law of Effect. As I understand it, exercise is the idea that learning comes about through blindly repeating the target behavior over and over, or practicing, but the Law of Effect suggests that feedback is necessary to facilitate learning. With feedback, you might want to associate a satisfactory outcome for the learner. In research to study learning, E.L. Thorndike used an apparatus known as the puzzle box inconjunction with very hungry cats, and he studied how long it took the cat to learn how to exit the puzzle box to get at its lunch. If you have to write on this question you will want to include the words "trial and error" also. There is a very good book on learning theory, An Introduction to Theories of Learning by B.R. Hergenhahn which includes a section of Edward L. Thorndike, and Thorndike's books are informative and good and easy reading on the subject. Good Luck, David

-- david clark (, September 26, 2001.

From Harre, R. & Lamb, R. (1983). Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychology Cambridge,MA: MIT Press.

"learning: Thorndike's laws The law of effect and the law of exercise. The law of effect states that a response followed by a satisfying or pleasant consequence (i.e. a response that is rewarded) tends to be repeated, while one followed by an annoying or unpleasant consequence (i.e. one that is punished) tends not to be repeated. To explain these empirical generalizations (sometimes referred to as the empirical law of effect) Thorndike assumed that satisfying consequences strengthen stimulus-response connections while annoying consequences weaken them. The law ot exercise states that, other things being equal, the more often a response is performed in a given situation, the more likely it is to be repeated.

Thorndike had no doubt that the law of effect was the more important of the two: only if two responses had similar effects would the law of exercise come into play to increase the probability of the more frequently performed response. And in both theoretical and empirical forms the law of effect has had much the greater impact on later psychologists. Hull attempted to explain all learning in terms of Thorndike's theoretical law of effect; while Skinner defined instrumental or operant conditioning as the establishment of responses by their consequences in accordance with the empirical law of effect. NIM

Bibliography Thorndike. Edward L. 1911: Animal intelligence. New York: Macmillan.

-- Christopher Green (, September 27, 2001.

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