(redirected from associationist)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.
Related to associationist: Associationist psychology


theory that all consciousness is the result of the combination, in accordance with the law of associationassociation,
in psychology, a connection between different sensations, feelings, or ideas by virtue of their previous occurrence together in experience. The concept of association entered contemporary psychology through the empiricist philosophers John Locke, George Berkeley,
..... Click the link for more information.
, of certain simple and ultimate elements derived from sense experiences. It was developed by David HartleyHartley, David,
1705–57, English physician and philosopher, founder of associational psychology. In his Observations on Man (2 vol., 1749) he stated that all mental phenomena are due to sensations arising from vibrations of the white medullary substance of the brain
..... Click the link for more information.
 and advanced by James MillMill, James,
1773–1836, British philosopher, economist, and historian, b. Scotland; father of John Stuart Mill. Educated as a clergyman at Edinburgh through the patronage of Sir John Stuart, Mill gave up the ministry and went to London in 1802 to pursue a career writing
..... Click the link for more information.



associative psychology, a direction in psychology in which the concept of association appears as the main explanatory principle of all psychic life. As-sociationism attempts to affirm a strictly causal approach to human behavior and consciousness. Underlying associationism is the notion that the sequence of ideas which arises in the consciousness reflects the system of external influences on the organism. It is supposed that inasmuch as the interaction of an organism with the physical world proceeds in accordance with the laws of mechanics, the connections of ideas arise in accordance with the same laws. This proposition was first put forth by the English philosopher T. Hobbes and was developed by the Dutch philosopher B. Spinoza, who formulated the law of association: “If the human body is once subjected to simultaneous action by two or several bodies, then the soul, when subsequently it imagines one of them, will immediately recall the others” (“Etika,” in Izbr. proizv., vol. 1, Moscow, 1957, p. 423). The term “association” was first used by the English philosopher J. Locke in 1698. However, he used it to designate “false and unnatural combinations of ideas” (“Opyt o chelovecheskom razume,” in Lzbr. filos. proizv., vol. 1, Moscow, 1960, p. 400) and counterposed ties based on reason to these combinations. In the mid-18th century, the English philosopher D. Hartley, drawing on the mechanics of I. Newton, developed a theory under which all manifestations of psychic life, including reason and will, are subordinated to the law of association—which is universal and inevitable, like the law of gravity. The influence of this theory, which asserted that any link of conceptions and actions can be deduced from sensations and the traces they leave in the brain, was extraordinarily great. It became prevalent not only in psychology, but also in ethics, aesthetics, biology, pedagogy, and logic. The idealistic associationism of the English philosophers G. Berkeley and D. Hume—who asserted that the link between psychic elements is made within the consciousness and is purely subjective—arose as a counterweight to this natural-scientific orientation. The view, characteristic of associationism, which held that complex processes of consciousness were the product of combinations of elements (sensations or ideas) led in the early 19th century to the truly mechanistic conceptions of the English philosopher J. Mill, according to which all structures of psychic life are made up of “bricks,” or feelings, and the “cement,” or associations, which holds them together. Attempting to mitigate the extremity of this concept, the English philosophers J. S. Mill and A. Bain modernized it, acknowledging that qualitatively new psychic units may arise from sensations.

The principles of associationism were fertile for the progress of psychological investigation—in particular, the development of new methods of studying the memory (mechanical—H. Ebbinghaus, Germany; and figurative— F. Galton, England), emotions (C. Darwin, England), and motivation (S. Freud, Austria; K. Jung, Switzerland). A reorientation in associationism took place. Instead of the obsolete mechanistic explanations, biological explanations were advanced (H. Spencer, England; I. M. Sechenov, Russia). The concept of associationism was transformed, on a new physiological basis, into doctrines of conditioned reflexes and behaviorism. Certain psychological schools (the Würzburg school and Gestalt psychology) criticized associationism as being mechanistic, atomistic, and incapable of explaining the integrity and activity of consciousness. From the standpoint of Marxist psychology, this criticism is one-sided, and although it does contain rational aspects, it ignores the historical value of associationism and its contribution to the causal explanation of psychic activity.


Ivanovskii, V. N. Assotsianizm psikhologicheskii i gnoseologicheskii. Kazan, 1909.
Ivanovskii, V. N. “Uchenie ob assotsiatsii idei.” Uch. zap. imp. Kazanskogo un-ta, 1915, book 12; ibid., 1917–18, books 2, 7–9, 10–12.
Shevarev, P. A. Obobshchennye assotsiatsii v uchebnoi rabote shkol’nika. Moscow, 1959.
Iaroshevskii, M. G. Istoriia psikhologii. Moscow, 1966. Chapter 6.
Warren, H. C. History of the Association Psychology. [London,] 1921.


References in periodicals archive ?
For Fiona Price, Common Sense is at the basis of Elizabeth Hamilton's associationist theory of education, which, governed by a conservative aesthetics, nonetheless manifests a democratizing impulse in its casting of the poor not as subjects but agents, exercising, rather than simply furnishing the material for, aesthetic representation and judgment.
Most of the studies that laid the framework for these cognitive principles took place in the associationist era, before cognitivism was formally defined in the late 1960s.
Thus Jackson proposes that Wordsworth supplements the associationist account of the mind, rather than replacing it, and that in the infant babe passage he intends to install a sense of the self "having its origins in history" (74).
Perhaps the most important of all the contributions of made by Grundlagen to general philosophy is the attack on the imagist or associationist theory of meaning.
Phillips explains Godwin's preference for simplicity in terms of associationist psychology: the power of association would be strongest where there were few distractions (325).
5) The similarities between Tennyson's account of the mind and the later theories of physiological psychologists such as Spencer are partly attributable to the fact that, through the books in his father's library, the young Tennyson had access to many fields of enquiry (such as physiology, empiricist philosophy, and associationist psychology) that were subsequently influential in the development of theories of embodied psychology in the second half of the nineteenth century.
In this essay Mill employs categories from the work of James Martineau (13) to describe in the language of associationist philosophy the effects of two kinds of poets.
3) For the infant's place in philosophical accounts of subjectivity, in this case an associationist one, see "On Sympathy" in The Writings of Arthur Hallam, ed.
Wordsworth's acquaintance with Lockean empiricism and its ramifications in the associationist psychology of David Hartley is well known, but it is worth considering the mediation of those ideas in eighteenth-century fiction.
The associationist psychology of art critics like Archibald Alison (Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste, first published in 1790) provided a theoretical explanation for this synecdochal connection.
By the end of this poem, Coleridge pledges that his infant son will be formed by an education amid nature's "lovely shapes and sounds intelligible"--which education, if it is still premised on associationist principles, will at least avoid the random sports to which he believes his own mind is all too susceptible.
Transcendence, the poetic mind's attempt to scale the philosophical or geographic heights (which had been dependent upon an associationist psychology as a "steppe-by-steppe" guide) upon which a poetry of unitary prospect had been based, is now imagined as forever foreclosed.

Full browser ?