Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Thorndike’s Law of Effect

  • Ioulia PapageorgiEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1049-1



A theory of learning proposed by Thorndike stating that responses closely followed by satisfaction are firmly connected to that situation and are more likely to be repeated when the situation occurs again. Responses followed by discomfort have their association to the situation weakened and are less likely to occur in similar situations.


Thorndike developed a theory of learning through on the basis of this experimental research with animals. He represented the original Stimulus-Response (S-R) framework and considered that learning is the result of associations formed between stimuli and response. He placed emphasis on the role of experience in the strengthening/weakening of S-R connections (Connectionism) and posed that learning happens through trial and error (Ormrod 2016). Some responses eventually dominate because they become associated with satisfaction.

Development of the Theory

Thorndike introduced his theory of learning, termed as...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NicosiaNicosiaCyprus

Section editors and affiliations

  • Menelaos Apostolou
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NicosiaNicosiaCyprus