Edward Thorndike

Edward Thorndike

Infobox Person
name = Edward Thorndike

image_size =
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birth_name = Edward Lee Thorndike
birth_date = birth date|1874|08|31
birth_place = Williamsburg, Mass
death_date = death date and age|1949|08|07|1874|08|31
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nationality = American
other_names =
known_for = Father of modern educational psychology
education = Wesleyan, Harvard, Columbia
employer = Teachers College, Columbia University
occupation = Psychologist
title = Professor
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religion = Methodist
spouse = Elizabeth Moulton (married August 29, 1900)
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children = 5
parents =
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website =
footnotes =

Edward Lee Thorndike (August 31, 1874 Williamsburg, Masscite web|url=http://www.dushkin.com/connectext/psy/ch06/bio6a.mhtml|title=Dushkin Biography|accessdate=2008-01-26] – August 9, 1949) was an American psychologist who spent nearly his entire career at Teachers College, Columbia University. His work on animal behavior and the learning process led to the theory of connectionism and helped lay the scientific foundation for modern educational psychology. He also worked on solving industrial problems, such as employee exams and testing. He was a member of the board of the Psychological Corporation, and served as president of the American Psychological Association in 1912Saettler, 2004, pp.52-56] Citation
last1 = Zimmerman | first1 = Barry J.
last2 = Schunk | first2 = Dale H.
title = Educational Psychology: A Century of Contributions
publisher = Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
year = 2003
isbn = 0805836829
] .

Childhood and Education

He was a son of a Methodist minister in Lowell, Massachusetts.cite web|url=http://www.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/thorndike.htm|title=Psychology History - Biography|accessdate=2008-01-26]

On August 29, 1900, he was married to Elizabeth Moulton and they had five children.cite web|url=http://www-distance.syr.edu/pvitaelt.html|title=Syracuse University Geneological Data - Biography|accessdate=2008-01-26|date=1998-11-01|author=Roger Hiemstra]

Thorndike graduated from The Roxbury Latin School(1891), in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, Wesleyan University (B.S. 1895), Harvard University (M.A. 1897), and Columbia University (PhD. 1898).

Upon graduation, Thorndike returned to his initial interest, Educational Psychology. In 1899, after a year of unhappy, initial employment at the College for Women of Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, he became an instructor in psychology at Teachers College at Columbia University, where he remained for the rest of his career, studying human learning, education, and mental testing.


Among Thorndike's most famous contributions were his research on how cats learned to escape from puzzle boxes and his related formulation of the law of effect.Zimmerman & Schunk, 2003] Curren, 2003, p.265] The law of effect states that responses that are closely followed by satisfying consequences become associated with the situation, and are more likely to recur when the situation is subsequently encountered. If the responses are followed by aversive consequences, associations to the situation become weaker. The puzzle box experiments were motivated in part by Thorndike's dislike for statements that animals made use of extraordinary faculties such as insight in their problem solving: "In the first place, most of the books do not give us a psychology, but rather a eulogy of animals. They have all been about animal intelligence, never about animal stupidity."Thorndike, 1911, p.22.]

Thorndike meant to distinguish clearly whether or not cats escaping from puzzle boxes were using insight. Thorndike's instruments in answering this question were 'learning curves' revealed by plotting the time it took for an animal to escape the box each time it was in the box. He reasoned that if the animals were showing 'insight,' then their time to escape would suddenly drop to a negligible period, which would also be shown in the learning curve as an abrupt drop; while animals using a more ordinary method of trial and error would show gradual curves. His finding was that cats consistently showed gradual learning.

Thorndike interpreted the findings in terms of associations. He asserted that the connection between the box and the motions the cat used to escape was 'strengthened' by each escape. A similar, though radically reworked idea was taken up by B. F. Skinner in his formulation of operant conditioning. The associative analysis went on to figure largely in behavioral work through mid-century, and is now evident in some modern work in behavior as well as modern. Thorndike supported Dewey's functionalism and added a stimulus-response component and renamed it connectionist. His theory became an educational requirement for the next fifty years.

Thorndike specified three conditions that maximizes learning:

* The law of effect stated that the likely recurrence of a response is generally governed by its consequence or effect generally in the form of reward or punishment.
* The law of recency stated that the most recent response is likely to govern the recurrence.
* The law of exercise stated that stimulus-response associations are strengthened through repetition.:See|Principles of learning

Thorndike also studied auxiliary languages and influenced the work of the International Auxiliary Language Association, which developed Interlingua.Esterhill, 2000]

Adult Learning

Thorndike put his testing expertise to work for the United States Army during World War I. He created both the Alpha and Beta tests, ancestors to today's [ASVAB] (The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is a multiple choice test, administered by the United States Military Entrance Processing Command, used to determine qualification for enlistment in the United States armed forces.). For classification purposes, soldiers were administered Alpha tests. With the realization that some soldiers could not read well enough to complete the Alpha test, the Beta test (consisting of pictures and diagrams) was administered. Such contributions anchored the field of psychology and encouraged later development of educational psychology.

Edward Thorndike believed that “Instruction should pursue specified, socially useful goals.” Thorndike studied “Adult Learning”, and believed that the ability to learn did not decline until age 35, and only then at a rate of 1 percent per year, going against the thoughts of the time that "you can't teach old dogs new trick." It was later shown that the speed of learning, not the power of learning declined with age. Thorndike also stated the law of effect, which says behaviors that are followed by good consequences are likely to be repeated in the future.

Thorndike was one of the first pioneers of "active" learning, a theory that proposes letting children learn themselves, rather than receiving instruction from teachers: "The lecture and demonstration methods represent an approach to a limiting extreme in which the teacher lets the student find out nothing which he could possible be told or shown...They ask of him only that he attend to, and do his best to understand, questions which he did not himself frame and answers which he did not himself work out."

Thorndike’s Word Books

Thorndike composed three different word books to assist teachers with word and reading instruction. After publication of the first book in the series, The Teacher’s Word Book (1921), two other books were written and published, each approximately a decade apart from its predecessor. The second book in the series, its full title being A Teacher’s Word Book of the Twenty Thousand Words Found Most Frequently and Widely in General Reading for Children and Young People, was published in 1932, and the third and final book, The Teacher’s Word Book of 30,000 Words, was published in 1944.

Using Thorndike’s Word Books

In the preface to the third book, The Teacher’s Word Book of 30,000 Words (1944), Thorndike writes that the list contained therein “tells anyone who wishes to know whether to use a word in writing, speaking, or teaching how common the word is in standard English reading matter” (p. x), and he further advises that the list can best be employed by teachers if they allow it to guide the decisions they make choosing which words to emphasize during reading instruction. Some words require more emphasis than others, and, according to Thorndike, his list informs teachers of the most frequently occurring words that should be reinforced by instruction and thus become “a permanent part of [students’] stock of word knowledge” (p. xi). If a word is not on the list but appears in an educational text, its meaning only needs to be understood temporarily in the context in which it was found, and then summarily discarded from memory.

ource of Words

In Appendix A to A Teacher’s Word Book of the Twenty Thousand Words Found Most Frequently and Widely in General Reading for Children and Young People, Thorndike gives credit to his word counts and how frequencies were assigned to particular words. Selected sources extrapolated from Appendix A are listed below

Children’s Reading: Black Beauty, Little Women, Treasure Island, A Christmas Carol, The Legend of Sleep Hollow, Youth’s Companion, school primers, first readers, second readers, and third readers

Standard Literature: The Bible, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Cowper, Pope, and Milton

Common Facts and Trades: The United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, A New Book of Cookery, Practical Sewing and Dress Making, Garden and Farm Almanac, and mail-order catalogues

Thorndike also examined local newspapers and correspondences for common words to be included in the book.Fact|date=July 2008

elected works

* "Educational Psychology" (1903)
* "Introduction to the Theory of Mental and Social Measurements" (1904)
* "The Elements of Psychology" (1905)
* "Animal Intelligence" (1911)
*cite book | title = Education Psychology | publisher = Routledge | location = New York | year = 1999 | origyear = 1913 | isbn = 0415210119
* "The Teacher's Word Book (1921
* "The Measurement of Intelligence" (1927)
* "A Teacher's Word Book of the Twenty Thousand Words Found Most Frequently and Widely in General Reading for Children and Young People (1932)
* "The Fundamentals of Learning" (1932)
* "The Psychology of Wants, Interests, and Attitudes" (1935)
* "The Teacher's Word Book of 30,000 Words (co-authored with Irving Lorge) (1944)
* "The Psychology of Arithmetic" (1922)

ee also

* Educational psychology
* Halo effect
* Law of effect
* Principles of learning
* Robert Thorndike
* William James



last1 = Curren | first1 = Randall R.
title = A Companion to the Philosophy of Education
publisher = Blackwell Publishing
year = 2003
isbn = 0631228373
last1 = Esterhill | first1 = Frank J.
title = Interlingua Institute: A History
publisher = Interlingua Institute
year = 2000
isbn = 0917848020
last1 = Saettler | first1 = L. Paul
title = Evolution of American Educational Technology
publisher = IAP
year = 2004
isbn = 1593111398
last1 = Thorndike | first1 = Edward Lee
title = Animal Intelligence
publisher = Macmillan
year = 1911
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=LC7GeCzw0lQC
last1 = Zimmerman | first1 = Barry J.
last2 = Schunk | first2 = Dale H.
title = Educational Psychology: A Century of Contributions
publisher = Lawrence Erlbaum Associate
year = 2003
isbn = 0805836829

External links

* [http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/ethorndike.shtml Edward Thorndike biography]
* [http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Thorndike/Animal/ Classics in the history of Psychology - Animal Intelligence by Thorndike]
* [http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/history/thorndike.html Edward L. Thorndike ] at www.nwlink.com

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Edward Thorndike — Edward Lee Thorndike (31 août 1874 9 août 1949) est un psychologue américain, précurseur du béhaviorisme. Il est notamment connu pour ses recherches sur l intelligence animale et en psychologie de l éducation. Sommaire 1… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Edward Thorndike — Edward Lee Thorndike (* 31. August 1874 in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, USA; † 9. oder 10. August[1] 1949 in Montrose, New York) war ein US amerikanischer Psychologe und Begründer der instrumentellen Konditionierung. Seine Verhaltensstudien an… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Edward Thorndike — Edward Lee Thorndike Nacimiento Agosto 31 de 1874 Williamsburg (Estados Unidos) Fallecimiento Agosto 9 de 1949 Montrose (Nueva York, Estados Unidos) Residencia …   Wikipedia Español

  • Edward Lee Thorndike — (* 31. August 1874 in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, USA; † 9. oder 10. August[1] 1949 in Montrose, New York) war ein US amerikanischer Psychologe und Begründer der instrumentellen Konditionierung. Seine Verhaltensstudien an Tieren und speziell… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Edward — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Edward es un nombre de pila masculino inglés. Es el equivalente al español Eduardo, al francés Édouard, al catalán o alemán Eduard y al italiano Edoardo, entre otros. Es el nombre de: Personas reales David Edward… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Thorndike — Names = Thorndike is a surname, and may refer to:* Augustus Thorndike * Edward Thorndike * Herbert Thorndike * Israel Thorndike * John Thorndike * Lynn Thorndike * Robert Thorndike * Robert M. Thorndike * Russell Thorndike * Sybil Thorndike… …   Wikipedia

  • Thorndike — ist unter anderem der Name der folgenden Personen: Andrew Thorndike, deutscher Dokumentarfilmer (1909–1979) Annelie Thorndike, deutsche Dokumentarfilmerin (* 1925) Ashley Horace Thorndike (1871–1933), Shakespeare Experte, Prof. an der Columbia… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • THORNDIKE (E. L.) — THORNDIKE EDWARD LEE (1874 1949) Psychologue américain qui a eu un rôle de pionnier dans des domaines très divers de sa discipline: éthologie, théorie de l’apprentissage, pédagogie. Élève de William James à l’université Harvard, Thorndike publie… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Thorndike — Thorndike, Edward Lee …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Thorndike —   [ θɔːndaɪk],    1) Edward Lee, amerikanischer Psychologe, * Williamsburg (Massachusetts) 31. 8. 1874, ✝ Montrose (N. Y.) 10. 8. 1949; Schüler von W. James, Professor an der Columbia University. Er gilt als Vorläufer des Behaviorismus und prägte …   Universal-Lexikon

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