Meaning of ASSOCIATION in English
general psychological principle originally closely linked with problems of recollection, or memory. The principle stated that when any past event or experience is recalled, the act of recollection tends to bring again into use other events and experiences that have become related to this event in one or more of certain specified ways. As time went on the application of this general principle was expanded. It was invoked to cover almost everything that could happen in mental life except original sensations, and associationism became a theoretical view embracing the whole of psychology. Although the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle had proposed three forms of association (similarity, contrast, and contiguity) and in doing so paved the way to much elaborate annotation and controversy, associationism is usually looked upon as a distinctively British doctrine. Association of ideas was first used by John Locke in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). David Hume maintained in A Treatise of Human Nature (1739) that the essential forms of association were by resemblance, by contiguity in time or place, and by cause and effect. Following Hume, the chief British exponents of associationism were David Hartley in the 18th century and James and John Stuart Mill, Alexander Bain, and Herbert Spencer in the 19th. There was much criticism and disagreement about both the number and the proper naming of the forms of association, but in general all the associationists are usually said to hold views that are sensationalist, mechanical, and atomistic. Knowledge is held to be acquired originally through one or more of the special senses. By repetitions occurring in the natural course of mental life, the original sensory data are interconnected and can be revived or reinstated as representative images or ideas. All human knowledge is built up from separate, simple, and particular experiences and is analyzable without remainder into these experiences. During the 1880s a strong reaction in England against associationism was begun by the philosopher F.H. Bradley and the analytical psychologists James Ward and G.F. Stout, who denied that knowledge was founded solely on sensations and emphasized an inherent element of purpose in all mental activity. In The Principles of Psychology (1890) the American philosopher William James replaced association of ideas by an association of central nervous processes set up by overlapping or immediately successive stimuli. In 1903 the Russian physiologist Ivan P. Pavlov used purely objective methods to study what had been called association, and he arrived eventually at a complete and elaborate derivation of all behaviour from original and conditioned reflexes. The conditioned-reflex theories and many of the behaviourist theories that grew up about the same time were an association psychology of behaviour, making essentially the same claims as those doctrines of the association of ideas and open to the same criticism. This situation was true also of much of the stimulus-response psychology that became dominant in the United States and that persists in various forms. As experimenters who believed firmly in association as an explanatory principle designed and did more and more experiments, however, difficulties accumulated. The American psychologist Edward L. Thorndike, for example, showed that mere repetition can do little or nothing to establish connections between stimulus and response. He himself considered most important the effect that followed action, and he thought of this effect chiefly in terms of pleasure or pain (The Fundamentals of Learning, 1932). Others researchers stressed an alleged direct effect of knowledge of results, and others, such as American psychologist Clark Hull (Principles of Behavior, 1943), produced a complete account of learning mainly in terms of need reduction, or the strength of the drive linking stimulus and response under various empirical conditions. All of these thinkers demanded not the rejection but some more or less radical reformulation of associationist principles. Others, including the Gestalt psychologists, called for total rejection of associationism so far as higher mental processes were concerned. Associationist theories as all-embracing explanatory principles in psychology have undergone much criticism, some of it undeniably justified, and very few, if any, psychologists or students of human behaviour accord these theories the range and power once claimed for them. Most psychologists probably agree, however, that association remains a genuinely important and effective principle, active in all instances of learning through accumulated experience.
Britannica English vocabulary. Английский словарь Британика. 2012