Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thorndike's laws of learning and its educational implications

Thorndike’s Laws ofLearning:
1)      Law of Readiness:-

First primary law of learning, according to him, is the ‘Law of Readiness’ or the ‘Law of Action Tendency’, which means that learning takes place when an action tendency is aroused through preparatory adjustment, set or attitude. Readiness means a preparation of action. If one is not prepared to learn, learning cannot be automatically instilled in him, for example, unless the typist, in order to learn typing prepares himself to start, he would not make much progress in a lethargic & unprepared manner.

2)      Law of Exercise:-

The second law of learning is the ‘Law of Exercise’, which means that drill or practice helps in increasing efficiency and durability of learning and according to Throndike’s S-R Bond Theory, the connections are strengthened with trail or practice and the connections are weakened when trial or practice is discontinued. The ‘law of exercise’, therefore, is also understood as the ‘law of use and disuse’ in which case connections or bonds made in the brain cortex are weakened or loosened. Many examples of this case are found in case of human learning. Learning to drive a motor-car, typewriting, singing or memorizing a poem or a mathematical table, and music etc. need exercise and repetition of various movements and actions many times.

3)      Law of Effect:-

The third law is the ‘Law of Effect’, according to which the trial or steps leading to satisfaction stamps in the bond or connection. Satisfying states lead to consolidation and strengthening of the connection, whereas dis-satisfaction, annoyance or pain lead to the weakening or stamping out of the connection. In fact, the ‘law of effect’ signifies that if the response satisfy the subject, they are learnt and selected, while those which are not satisfying are eliminated. Teaching, therefore, must be pleasing. The educator must obey the tastes and interests of his pupils. In other words, greater the satisfaction stronger will be the motive to learn. Thus, intensity is an important condition of ‘law of effect’.

     Besides these three basic laws, Throndike also refer to five subordinate laws which further help to explain the learning process. These are-

4)      Law of Multiple – Response-

According to it the organism varies or changes its response till an appropriate behaviour is hit upon. Without varying the responses, the correspondence for the solution might never be elicited. If the individual wants to solve a puzzle, he is to try in different ways rather than mechanically persisting in the same way. Throndike’s cat in the puzzle box moved about and tried many ways to come out till finally it hit the latch with her paw which opened the door and it jumped out.

5)      The Law of Set or Attitude-

Learning is guided by a total set or attitude of the organism, which determines not only what the person will do but what will satisfy or annoy him. For instance, unless the cricketer sets himself to make a century, he will not be able to score more runs. A student, similarly, unless he sets to get first position and has the attitude of being at the top, would while away the time and would not learn much. Hence, learning is affected more in the individual if he is set to learn more or to excel.
6)      Pre- potency of Elements:-

According to this law, the learner reacts selectively to the important or essential in the situation and neglects the other features or elements which may be irrelevant or non- essential. The ability to deal with the essential or the relevant part of the situation, makes analytical and insightful learning possible. In this law of pre-potency of elements, Thorndike is really anticipating insight in learning which was more emphasized by the Gestaltions.

7)      Law of  Response by Analogy-

According to this law, the individual makes use of old experiences or acquisitions while learning a new situation. There is a tendency to utilise common elements in the new situation as existed in a similar past situation. The learning of driving a car, for instance, is facilitated by the earlier acquired skill of driving a motor cycle or even riding a bicycle because the perspective or maintaining a balance and controlling the handle helps in stearing the car.

8)      The Law of Associative Shifting-

According to this law we may get an response, of which a learner is capable, associated with any other situation to which he is sensitive. Thorndike illustrated this by the act of teaching a cat to stand up at a command. A fish was dangled before the cat while he said ‘ stand up’. After a number trails by presenting the fish after uttering the command ‘stand up’, he later ousted the fish and the over all command of ‘stand up’ was found sufficient to evoke the response in the cat by standing up or her hind legs.

      In brief implications of the Theory are-

1)      According to this theory the task can be started from the easier aspect towards its difficult side. This approach will benefit the weaker and backward children.
2)      A small child learns some skills through trial and error method only such as sitting, standing, walking, running etc. In teaching also the child rectifies the writing after commiting mistakes.
3)      In this theory more emphasis has been laid on motivation. Thus, before starting teaching in the classroom the students should be properly motivated.
4)      Practice leads a man towards maturity. Practice is the main feature of trial and error method. Practice helps in reducing the errors committed by the child in learning any concept.
5)      Habits are formed as a result of repeitition. With the help of this theory the wrong habits of the children can be modified and the good habits strengthened.
6)      The effects of rewards and punishment also affect the learning of the child. Thus, the theory lays emphasis on the use of reward and punishment in the class by the teacher.
7)      The theory may be found quite helpful in changing the behaviour of the deliquent children. The teacher should cure such children making use of this theory.
8)      With the help of this theory the teacher can control the negative emotions of the children such as anger, jealousy etc.
9)      The teacher can improve his teaching methods making use of this theory. He must observe the effects of his teaching methods on the students and should not hesitate to make necessary changes in them, if required.
10)   The theory pays more emphasis on oral drill work. Thus, a teacher should conduct oral drill of the taught contents. This help in strengthening the learning more.


  1. This is a good blog to review or refresh your memory.

  2. thank you for this.. its very useful for my report in psychology :-)

  3. Thank you for this site/blog. It helped me done with my Psychology Homework. :)

  4. good one... it helped me in my examination

  5. thank you for this blog it helped me done with my assignment

  6. thanks for this blog it helps me understand thorndike theory

  7. Thank so much this article is of help to us as trainer and students.

  8. Nice blog. Helps to complete a topic of B.ed.

  9. Great....really helpful...appreciated

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  11. Great and really helpful...appreciated..

  12. Great efforts for development of education

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  14. Its a practical theory which as helped me accademically

  15. Very best for learners and excellent explanation brief and to the point

  16. Thank for the blog it really help me in my ASSIGNMENT.