Insight and Learning

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Insight and Learning
Cognitive Processes in Learning
Removed due to copyright
permissions restrictions.
Source: Köhler (1976).
Here are three impressive examples of
problem solving by chimpanzees. At left,
a chimp fixed a fifteen-foot pole in the
ground, climbed to the top, and dropped
down after grabbing a piece of fruit. In
the center photo, the animal stacked two
boxes from different areas of the compound, climbed to the top, and used a pole
to knock down the fruit. The chimp at
right stacked three boxes and climbed
them to reach the fruit
latent learning Learning that is not
demonstrated at the time it occurs.
cognitive map A mental representation of the environment.
after the first reinforcement trial could have occurred only if the rats had earlier developed a cognitive map of the maze. A cognitive map is a mental representation of some
physical arrangement—in this case, a maze.
Tolman concluded that cognitive maps develop naturally through experience, even
in the absence of any overt response or reinforcement. Research on learning in the natural environment has supported this view. We develop mental maps of shopping
malls and city streets, even when we receive no direct reward for doing so (Tversky &
Kahneman, 1991). Having such a map allows you to tell that neighborhood visitor
exactly how to get to the corner drugstore from where you are standing.
Insight and Learning
Wolfgang Köhler was a psychologist whose work on the cognitive aspects of learning
happened almost by accident. He was visiting Tenerife, an island in the Atlantic Ocean,
when World War I broke out in 1914. As a German in territory controlled by Germany’s
enemy, Britain, Köhler was confined there until the war ended in 1918. He used this
time to study problem solving in a colony of local chimpanzees (Köhler, 1924).
For example, Köhler would put a chimpanzee in a cage and place a piece of fruit
where the chimp could see it but not reach it. He sometimes hung the fruit too high to
be reached, or placed it on the ground too far outside the animal’s cage to be retrieved.
Many of the chimps overcame these obstacles easily. If the fruit was out of reach beyond
the cage, some chimps looked around, found a long stick, and used it to rake in the fruit.
Surprised that the chimpanzees could solve these problems, Köhler tried more difficult
tasks. Again, the chimps quickly got to the fruit, as Figure 5.15 illustrates.
Three aspects of Köhler’s observations convinced him that animals’ problem solving does not have to depend on trial and error and the gradual association of responses
with consequences. First, once a chimpanzee solved one type of problem, it would
immediately do the same thing in a similar situation. In other words, it acted as if it
understood the problem. Second, Köhler’s chimpanzees rarely tried a solution that did
not work. Apparently, the solution was not discovered randomly but “thought out”
ahead of time and then acted out successfully. Third, the chimps often reached a solution quite suddenly. When confronted with a piece of fruit hanging from a string, for
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