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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, David Hume, and 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
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, and the British associationist school of 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
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, John Stuart MillMill, John Stuart,
1806–73, British philosopher and economist. A precocious child, he was educated privately by his father, James Mill. In 1823, abandoning the study of law, he became a clerk in the British East India Company, where he rose to become head of the examiner's
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, and others (see associationismassociationism,
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.
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). Translated into the stimulus-response terms of behaviorismbehaviorism,
school of psychology which seeks to explain animal and human behavior entirely in terms of observable and measurable responses to environmental stimuli. Behaviorism was introduced (1913) by the American psychologist John B.
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, association has been thought of as the basis of learning and conditioning. Paired experience and the principle of reinforcement are often invoked to explain associative learning. However, GestaltGestalt
[Ger.,=form], school of psychology that interprets phenomena as organized wholes rather than as aggregates of distinct parts, maintaining that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
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 psychologists, who believe that association between items is dependent on their relations to each other, interpret association as an aftereffect of perceptual organization. Psychoanalysispsychoanalysis,
name given by Sigmund Freud to a system of interpretation and therapeutic treatment of psychological disorders. Psychoanalysis began after Freud studied (1885–86) with the French neurologist J. M.
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 uses a technique known as free association, in which the client expresses thoughts exactly as they occur, even though they may seem irrelevant. This procedure is designed to reveal areas of conflict and to bring into consciousness traumatic events that have been repressed, the theory being that earlier thoughts and associations can be derived from current thoughts with similar patterns of association.


See N. J. Mackintosh, Conditioning and Associative Learning (1983).

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A loose group of young stars of similar spectral type. OB associations are groups of massive and highly luminous main-sequence stars of spectral types O and B. They occur in regions rich in gas and dust in the spiral arms of the Galaxy. They have dimensions ranging from a few parsecs to several hundred parsecs. Often an open cluster is found near the center of an association, e.g. the Zeta Persei association surrounds h and Chi Persei. R associations are groups of bright young stars of slightly lower mass (3–10 solar masses) that illuminate reflection nebulae. T associations are groups of T Tauri stars, i.e. young stars of about the Sun's mass. Most contain less than 30 stars though some contain as many as 400. R and T associations are often found in the vicinity of young open clusters.

Associations are generally too sparsely populated to be gravitationally bound systems and there is strong evidence that they represent the aftereffects of comparatively recent multiple star births. In some cases the stars appear to be expanding from a common center: by extrapolating back their present velocities an estimate of the age of the system can be derived. For instance, the association II Persei shows an expansion age of slightly over one million years.

Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006


  1. any group sharing a common purpose or interest. See also GEMEINSCHAFT AND GESELLSCHAFT.
  2. (STATISTICS) the degree to which two VARIABLES are related. See CORRELATION.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000


A sparsely populated grouping of very young stars that appear to have had a common origin and have not yet had time to disperse.
Combination or correlation of substances or functions.
Major segment of a biome formed by a climax community, such as an oak-hickory forest of the deciduous forest biome.
A connection formed through learning.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. Psychol the mental process of linking ideas so that the recurrence of one idea automatically recalls the other
2. Chem the formation of groups of molecules and ions, esp in liquids, held together by weak chemical bonds
3. Ecology a group of similar plants that grow in a uniform environment and contain one or more dominant species
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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