THE LAW OF EFFECT

The law of effect (Edward L. Thorndike 1874-1949)

Any response that leads to an outcome that is satisfying for the organism is likely to be repeated. A response leading to an outcome that is not satisfying is not likely to be repeated.

Association by contiguity: the organism forms an association or connection between the response and its consequences. For it to be effective, the response and the outcome have to be closely linked, both in time and space.

The theory drew attention towards the significance of reward and punishment in learning new behavior.

Edward Thorndike put forward a “Law of effect” which stated that any behavior that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated, and any behavior followed by unpleasant consequences is likely to be stopped.

An example is often portrayed in drug addiction. When a person uses a substance for the first time and receives a positive outcome, they are likely to repeat the behavior due to the reinforcing consequence. Over time, the person’s nervous system will also develop a tolerance to the drug. Thus only by increasing dosage of the drug will provide the same satisfaction, making it dangerous for the user.


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