Implications and Limitations of Thorndike’s Theory

Implications and Limitations of Thorndike’s Theory- with pdf

Implications of the Theory

In Brief, the implications of the theory are:

  1. According to his 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 committing 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 repetition. 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 delinquent 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 helps in strengthening the learning more.

Limitations of Stimulus Response theory

Some Objections to Thorndike’s Trial and Error Theory: The theory has been criticized by various psychologists on the following grounds.

Firstly, the theory is mechanical, for it leaves no room for an end or purpose in any sense whatsoever. On the contrary psychologist Mc Dougall maintained that even the behaviour of the amoeba or the paramecia consists in learning to face novel conditions to serve some unknown purpose Even repeated trials are of no avail if the tendency to learn is not there. Again, if the tendency is there, even one trial may be fruitful. Mc Dougall and Woodworth insist on readiness for reaching a goal in learning and Lloyd Morgan lays stress on persistency with varied efforts till the goal of learning is achieved. The hungry cat confined in the puzzle-box with food in front of it goes on persistently trying various means until it gets out of it and has food. So, its trials are not blind and mechanical. In fact, they are guided by perceptual attention and feelings of pleasure and pain. Yet, Thorndike pays no attention to these higher order mental processes.

Secondly, in course or repeated trials the numbers of errors are not corrected of themselves or mechanically. The effects of Trial and Error depend to a great extent upon the psychophysical state of the animal or man. In the absence of any purpose in view the animal is so puzzled, rather than enlightened by the errors committed that it goes on blindly repeating them without end.

Thirdly, Thorndike assumes that learning consists only in the association of several separate movements. But, learning is a whole process related to a whole situation. The hungry cat confined in a puzzle-box with food placed near it does not perceive the situation in a piece-meal fashion but as a whole of hunger food-puzzle box-confinement.

Finally, the laws of learning formulated by Thorndike appear to be unjustified. For instance, the ‘law of effect‘ seems to be in consistent with his mechanical point of view. Satisfaction in or the sense of being rewarded by success and dissatisfaction in or the sense of being punished by failure seen to ascribe higher mental processes to animals like cats and rats than are psychologically ascribable to them. Or, it violates Lloyd Morgans’s law.

Similarly, the ‘Law of Exercise‘ has been severely criticized on the grounds that it does not regard other factors like motives, interests, special training etc. Mechanical repetition without motive, interest, significance or understanding does not make anyone learn anything and remember it. One rupee-currency note passes hundred times through the hand of a person, but hardly anyone is able to tell the size, the colour and other details of it.

A boy was asked to write hundred times ‘I have gone after school. He wrote it mechanically and correctly all the times. But, when he left the school in the absence of the teacher, he wrote “I have written,” I have gone’ correctly one hundred times and since you are not here “I have went home”. After repeating one correct thing so many times he again committed the same mistake. This shows that repetition without motive, interest or understanding is of no avail.

Thus, learning by Trial and Error is not of very much use and should not be resorted to by the teacher as it lays a stress on cramming. Also, there is much wastage of time and energy by this method.

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