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COGNITIVE LEARNING ACCORDING TO KOHLER AND TOLMAN
by demiguin

These are based on the theories of Wolfgang Kohler and Edward Tolman.


 I. Introduction

Cognitive learning is a complex form of learning.  It involves interpreting present perceptions in the light of past information to get our way through unfamiliar problems.  It is more than just gathering information.  It involves new ways of learning, acting and solving.  It is also known as a prelude to the study of human memory and language.

Cognitive theory relates to "how we gain information from the world, how such information is represented and transformed as knowledge, how it is stored and how that knowledge is used to direct our attention and behaviour" (Solso 1979).

The Cognitive theory does not focus on stimuli-response connections as important factors in learning. 

II. Discussion

            Kohler and Tolman are two people who contributed much to the study of cognitive learning.    

Wolfgang Kohler believed that animals are capable of intellectual accomplishments.  He believed that animals are able to see the relationship between things and act accordingly to reach their goal.  He believed that animals could have a clear and immediate understanding of a situation and come up with a solution that does not necessarily involve trial and error

            Humans, especially, have the power to see the relationship between things and come up with a solution.  An example would be the times when we try our best to come up with a solution but are trials would prove to be fruitless.  But suddenly, out of nowhere, a solution would come to us.  This is what Kohler called as insight learning.

            For Kohler, insight involves a sudden restructuring of our perceptual world into a new pattern or gestalt.  Kohler did not deny the importance of reward and punishment.

            To understand further the theory of Kohler, we would look into a study done with Sultan, a chimpanzee.  Sultan is inside a cage and outside the cage is a banana.  The banana is way beyond his reach.  Inside his cage is a short stick.  The stick is still too short for him to reach the banana.  The stick however is long enough to reach a longer stick that is outside the cage.  The longer stick would later help him draw the banana closer to him.

            Kohler said that this was not a result of trial and error but by the restructuring of various elements involved in the situation.

Five characteristics of Insight Learning:

1)      the greater the intelligence, the greater are the possibilities of achieving insight

2)      the stronger the experiences of the organism, the greater possibility it will have of achieving insight

3)      insight learning can be tested in the laboratory

4)      insight learning can be applied to new situations

5)      even if insightful learning is not the result of trial and error, trial and error is present in insight learning

Edward Tolman came up with a theory involving the study of rats.  This is the sign learning theory.  His study involved rats that were trained to run in a complicated maze.  The rats later found the shortest path to reach the food at the ned of the maze.  When the route was blocked, the rats would use the second shortest path.  Moreover, if the food was transferred, the rats showed that they had a cognitive map of the maze.  It was as if the rats came to expect a series of spatial relationships on the basis of their experience with the maze.

Sign learning is defined as `an acquired expectation that one stimulus will be followed by another in a particular contextí (Hilgard, et. al.)

Tolman pointed out that behaviorism had little appreciation for the cognitive aspect of behavior.  He said  that people do not simply respond to stimuli but rather act according to their belief and attitudes.  Behavior is defined as goal-oriented and defined by a purpose.  It is either going towards something or getting away from something.

People grow and learn.  Because of this, they are bound to develop new insights that would help them to acquire answers to problems after a period of study.  Man may also at the same time use reasoning to get to the truth.

  Sources:

http://java.cms.livjm.ac.uk/local/uid/uid2/COGNI.HTM

www.pigeon.psy.tufts.edu/ psych26/kohler.htm

Bustos et.al. Introduction to Psychology

J.P. Chaplin Ph.D. Dictionary of Psychology

Sevilla et.al. General Psychology with Values Development Lessons  


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