Experiments in Learning: Association theory and Field-Theory
Much has been made of differences in viewpoint between field-theorists and association-theorists; and each distinction in terminology is admittedly indicative of a special contribution to the fuller understanding of the learning process. An emphasis is put on a perceptual pattern already organized in its relationships; a concern with native structure; attention to the immediate apprehension of wholes and the later differentiation of parts; admission of the relevance of personal experience (awareness or idea-like processes). These were the challenges offered by Gestalt psychologists and field-theorists to the four comparable viewpoints of the association-theorists: A concern with external stimulation through sensory receptors; interest in the influence of environment; attention to the summation of elements and their later combining into wholes; exclusive concentration on observable responses, reactions or movements. All such comparisons are both relevant and illuminating; and to them may be added a sensitivity in field-theory to the significance of the present and the possible occurrence of sudden restructuring of the field, of insight or hind-sight.