Learning & Teaching Foreign Languages

Law of effect


In experiments where an animal had to escape from a box in order to reach a source of food, the early educational psychologist Edward Thorndike observed a gradual learning curve as the animal slowly established an association between its actions and the resultant escape.

He explained his findings in a law of effect, whereby

The connection between the situation and a certain impulse and act [is] stamped in when pleasure results from the act and stamped out when it doesn't.

(Thorndike, 1898)

He later added the law of exercise, which states that connections are strengthened through practice, and weakened if training is discontinued (Animal Intelligence, 1911).


  1. Watch: Puzzle box
  2. Read more: Thorndike

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