Thorndike thought that if Darwin is right, we evolved from lower life forms, then how we learn also evolved. There must be some universal principles of learning, some methods by which all living creatures discover. By studying anyone living creature, we could expose the general principles. By studying more and more living creatures, the principles of knowledge would be discovered. This concept is known as General Process Learning Theory. It is not so much a theory as it is a principle. Edward L. Thorndike believed that complex behavior could be implied as an emergent product of the growing action of relatively simple processes, particularly those summarized by what he came to call the law of effect.
With his pledge to selectionism and connectionism, Thorndike allied himself with the resurgent Darwinism of his time and, in so doing, foreshadowed the biobehavioral attempt of our time. Like Darwin before him, Thorndike did not know the biological mechanisms that permit retention and upon which selection acted. Yet, Thorndike believed that the full growth of this approach would require the discovery of these mechanisms. According to him, all animals should share solid basic features in common, including those physiological systems that underwrite learning and the organization of behavior. This principle of evolutionary conservation of function provoked decades of laboratory research designed to uncover the basic laws that clarify how all animals come to display the complex behavior patterns they do. Discovering that learning mechanisms appear to vary across species counted as a stern blow to the foundations of behaviorism, especially as an account of human behavior, and contributed considerably to its loss of a place at the center of the behavioral sciences.
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