Thorndike’s Experiment

                                                   Thorndike’s Cat Experiment

Edward Thorndike is well-known in the field of psychology for his work on learning theory that lead to the growth of operant conditioning within Behaviorism. Thorndike studied learning in animals (usually cats). He planned a classic experiment in which he used a puzzle box to empirically test the laws of learning.


He placed a cat in the puzzle box, which was encouraged to escape to reach a scrap of fish placed outside. Thorndike would put a cat into the box and calculate the time that how long it would took to escape. The cats experimented with various methods to escape the puzzle box and reach the fish.

After some time they would stumble upon the lever which opened the cage. When cat had escaped from the cage it was put in again, and once again the time it took to escape was noted. In successive trials the cats would have positive consequences and they would adopt this behavior, becoming increasingly quick at pressing the lever.

Thorndike concluded through his observation that any behavior for which animals/humans are being rewarded will continue with the same pace, but when animals/humans are being punished for certain behavior they will not repeat that behavior again and again. According to him, this is called as the “Law of Effect”.

Thorndike cat experiment

Critical Evaluation:

Edward Thorndike introduced the concept of reinforcement and was the first to apply psychological principles to the area of learning. His work led to the formation of many theories and laws of learning, such as operant conditioning. Both Thorndike and Skinner put animals in boxes and observed them to see what they were able to learn.

The learning theories of Thorndike and Pavlov were later produced by Hull. Thorndike’s work enlightened comparative psychology for fifty years, and influenced countless psychologists over that period of time, and even still today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *