The view that mental processes can be explained in terms of the association of ideas.
Advanced primarily by a succession of 18th- and 19th-century British philosophers, associationism anticipated developments in the modern field of psychology in a variety of ways. In its original empiricist context, it was a reaction against the Platonic philosophy of innate ideas that determined, rather than derived from, experience. Instead, the associationists proposed that ideas originated in experience, entering the mind through the senses and undergoing certain associative operations.
The philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) introduced the term "association of ideas" in the fourth edition of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1700), where he described it as detrimental to rational thought. George Berkeley (1685-1753), an Irish bishop, applied associationist principles to visual depth perception , arguing that the capacity to see things in three dimensions is the result of learning, not of innate ability . The British physician David Hartley (1705-1757) also dealt with the biological implications of associationism, formulating a neurophysiological theory about the transmission of ideas and also describing physical activity in terms of association (a concept that anticipated subsequent principles of conditioning ). Hartley also developed a comprehensive theory of associationism that encompassed memory , imagination , dreams , and morality. The Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) proposed the principles of similarity and contiguity, asserting that ideas that are similar or experienced simultaneously (or in rapid succession) become associated with each other.
James and John Stuart Mill (father and son philosophers) continued to examine associationism into the 19th century. The elder Mill proposed a mechanistic theory that linked ideas together in "compounds," especially through the principle of contiguity. The younger Mill, whose defining metaphor for the association of ideas was "mental chemistry," differed from his father in claiming that the mind played an active rather than a passive role in forming associations. He also suggested that a whole idea may amount to more than the sum of its parts, a concept similar to that later advocated by psychologists of the Gestalt school. Other 19th-century figures known for associationist ideas were Thomas Browne, who proposed several secondary laws of association, and Alexander Bain (1818-1903), who formulated a comprehensive psychological system based on association.
Aside from similarity and contiguity, other governing principles have been proposed to explain how ideas become associated with each other. These include temporal contiguity (ideas or sensations formed close together in time), repetition (ideas that occur together repeatedly), recency (associations formed recently are the easiest to remember), and vividness (the most vivid experiences form the strongest associative bonds). In the 20th century, the clearest heir to associationism is behaviorism , whose principles of conditioning are based on the association of responses to stimuli (and on one's association of those stimuli with positive or negative reinforcement ). Also, like associationism, behaviorism emphasizes the effects of environment (nurture) over innate characteristics (nature). Association appears in other modern contexts as well: the free association of ideas is a basic technique in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis , and association plays a prominent role in more recent cognitive theories of memory and learning.
Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1995.
Russell, Bertrand. A History of Western Philosophy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945.
Schultz, D. P. A History of Modern Psychology. 3rd ed. New York: Academic Press, 1981.
"Associationism." Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 25, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/associationism
"Associationism." Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. . Retrieved April 25, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/associationism
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.
associationism, theory that all consciousness is the result of the combination, in accordance with the law of association, of certain simple and ultimate elements derived from sense experiences. It was developed by David Hartley and advanced by James Mill.
"associationism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 25, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/associationism
"associationism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 25, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/associationism