Trial and Error Learning

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!


Edward Thorndike (1998) observed cats trying to escape from a puzzle box when he developed the Trial and Error Learning Model which is sometimes called Thorndikian Conditioning.

Thorndike (1998) account indicates:

When put into the box, the cat shows evident signs of discomfort and develops an impulse to escape from confinementů.whether the impulse to struggle (to escape) is due to an instinctive reaction to confinement or to an association, it is likely to succeed in letting the cat out of the box. The cat that is clawing all over the box in (its) impulsive struggle will probably claw the string or loop or button so as to open the door. Gradually all the other unsuccessful impulses will be stamped out and the particular impulse leading to the successful act will be stamped in by the resulting pleasure until, after may trials, the cat will, when put in the box, immediately claw the button or loop in a definite way.

Plainly put,

  1. those behaviors that lead to escape are repeated.
  2. those behaviors that do not lead to escape are eliminated.