An Introduction to Learning
DOI link for An Introduction to Learning
An Introduction to Learning book
Thus the experiments which we now consider were establishing new traditions: for the first time attempts were being made to introduce scientific rigour into the study oflearning. This involved the abandoning of previous techniques such as £ntrospection where the thoughts of the subject, reported to the experimenter, provided the data from which the experimenter drew his conclusions. An experimenter, using introspective techniques, would carry out an experiment, say in methods of learning, and then ask his subject how his thought processes worked during the experiment. As may readily be seen, such techniques cannot be checked objectively and must be affected by factors completely outside the experimenter's control. While the subject's thoughts might be interesting to the experimenter, he cannot legitimately take them down and use them as experimental evidence. Instead, emphasis is placed on experiments that are objective and amenable to corroboration and checking. Similarly, when we study learning in animals, care is taken to avoid anthropomorphism. That is, we do not invest animals with human attributes. We cannot say, for example, that the cat, curled up in front of the fire, is content or that a rabbit is afraid. These are human traits describing subjective human experiences. That animals feel as we do is highly unlikely and is certainly inaccessible to verification. To use anthropomorphic terms in describing animal behaviour is therefore a source of error. In the study of the application oflearning theory to school, much remains to be done since the bulk of experimental work has been done with animals, and this necessarily means that we must pay a good deal of attention
* SKEMP, R.: British Journal of Educational Psychology, June 1962. 53
to animal learning. However, this is useful since we can see in the simpler behaviour of animals, some of the essential features of human learning. We must be careful, however, to avoid carrying over uncritically the findings of experiments with rats and monkeys to human learning.