In E C Tolman’s research on cognitive maps, the rats were divided into two groups, the control group and the experimented group, and to be placed in the maze respectively (Kvan E, 2001:40-41). Food acted as an incentive and to be available at the end of the maze in the control group only, therefore, the reactions of the rats were compatible with Thorndike and Skinner’s results as above-mentioned that the learning process of the rats belonged to the type of trial and error learning [i.e. gradually learned by errors to shorten the escaped time then enjoying the trophy (e.g. the food) as soon as they can].
The law of effect brought out the pleasant effect to the rats (e.g. food as an incentive) that will tend to repeat the behaviour again. Contrarily, food would not be provided in the experimented group. The rats seemed to have no experience to learn the way to escape from the maze. However, an interesting phenomenon was noted as soon as food was introduced as a reward, the sudden drop in the number of errors were made by the experimented group of rats and the type of trial and error learning was noted (Kvan E, 2001:40).
It was as if the rats had acquired a mental image and developed a map of the maze (i.e. the cognitive map in mind), but their performance did not show it at first till the introduction of food as an incentive to reinforce and encourage the rats to perform well in the experiment (Kvan E, 2001:40). The pleasant effect was learned by the rats that would repeat the same behaviour again. The experiments showed that learning is not the same thing as performance (Kvan E, 2001:40). It is concluded that making errors are inevitably occurred among the learning process, rewards play an important role to encourage the better performance in learning, and the law of effect is always in connection with the trial and error learning.
Erik Homburg Erikson formulated his theory of personality development (= life span) in eight stages (infancy, early childhood, play age, school age, adolescence, early adulthood, adulthood and old age) (Kvan E, 2001:76-78). He emphasized in his theory that there is an intimate relationship between the individual person and their environments. Person experiences a number of conflicts (i.e. internal psychological factors and external social factors) and crises (i.e. various environments) in different stages. Each stage of life is associated with a particular crisis and a particular outcome that every person is regulated to face with and to learn the techniques or skills when reaching to certain stage. The promotion from one stage to another stage is doomed that individual person should pass through until s/he dies.
Therefore, individual experiences of life are accumulating in nature and individual abilities and confidence are enhanced, which are of help to enhance and consolidate individual’s sense of inner unity (i.e. personality) (Kvan E, 2001:76). For example, in the stage of infancy, infant starts interacting with people such as mother, caretaker and others. Although infant cannot speak, crying is a kind of instruments to express and request their hopes or desires such as loving care and attention. Baby may decide to trust people whom can cater his/her needs, if not, the reverse will be found. Therefore, infant learns the conflicts between trust and mistrust in this stage (Kvan E, 2001:76).
When infant grows up and reach to the stage of early childhood (i.e. toddlers), s/he is recognized as smarter than the previous stage because s/he can gain control over his/her body independently in this stage. Undoubtedly, the regulations of acceptable behaviour are essential and appropriate to guide children to comply with. Support is indeed significant to the child to develop self-confidence in their behaviour, if not, the response of shame will be found. Therefore, child in the early childhood learns the conflicts between autonomy and shame or doubt (Kvan E, 2001:76). Erikson’s view of personality development is specific with the association of particular crisis and particular outcome of crisis happened differently in each stage of life (Kvan E, 2001:76). A number of inner and outer conflicts are doomed to be met throughout the life span (Kvan E, 2001:76).
Obviously, the simplest form of learning such as learning by association and learning by trial and error was thought to be associative learning by the psychologists (Kvan E, 2001:41). The experiments by Pavlov, Thorndike and Skinner have shown that animals and human beings can learn to react to new things through associates with older reactions (Kvan E, 2001:41). Therefore, the interaction between stimulus (i.e. rewards) and response is indispensable. It is suggested that such learning processes are only acted as a yardstick or milestone to be adopted in the aspects of other research studies such as the infant’s preference, cognitive map and personality development in each stage. Owing to many different kinds of variations are available, the laboratory experiments can only teach us what the subjects can do but not to reflect they are normally do (Kvan E, 2001:41) and the limitations can be found.
Kvan, E. (2001), Psychology, Units 15 and 16, The Open University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. Leung, J P (1994) ‘Teaching spontaneous requests to children with autism using a time delay procedure with multi-component toys’, Journal of Behavioral Education, 4(1), 21-31.