(redirected from associationists)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.


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 ?
This apparently fatal flaw in Fourier's vision (and, as it happened, in Hopedale's constitution) eventually led many veteran Associationists to accept a more general principle that outsiders had articulated from the beginning: a community must be flexible enough to learn from its mistakes rather than assuming that any one theory can anticipate all eventualities.
When Charles Dana urged other Associationists to wait "till the vast amount of capital which, under Providence, civilization has been accumulating for this very purpose, is put at our command," he was essentially counseling endless delay ("Letter from Charles A.
As the new American Union of Associationists debated whether to accept the gradualist approach of the existing phalanxes or start something entirely new, Ceresco's Warren Chase berated the Eastern ideologues in terms that revealed his own insecurity.
When the American Union of Associationists decided not to "become responsible for any Practical Movement at the present time," Horace Greeley and a cluster of investors formed the Phalansterian Realization Fund Society with the intent of building a phalanstery for the North American and otherwise transforming it into an ideal experiment ("Annual Meeting of the American Union of Associationists" 13).
Even at the Fourierist phalanxes, these could not simply be identified with the ideals of Charles Fourier--as I have suggested, Associationists were more than happy to jettison specific Fourierist tenets when their unintended consequences became visible.
Yet relatively few Associationists were willing to draw conclusions that ran parallel to Noyes's.
Thus, while community survival trumped Fourierist theory at the most enduring Associations, the characteristically American style of utopianism that first drew Associationists to Fourier would ultimately trump community survival.
In short, had the Associationists taken Noyes's advice they might have lasted longer, but they would not have been Associationist communities.
Even at the time of their communities' founding, Associationists staked out different positions about the possibility of death.
But, like most Associationists, all three were committed to a liberal religiosity that blurred the distinction between Christian and American values.
This problem was not unrelated to Associationist ideals.
The first wave of Associationist failures, in the mid-1840s, was not enough to bring Fourierist leaders over to this way of thinking.

Full browser ?