What is associative learning?

Associative learning is a form of conditioning. It is a matter of temporal relationship between a signal and a sequence that can have positive or negative consequences for the organism. Neuronal connections in the brain are created through associative learning of these connections.

The physiological basis for associative learning was proven by the psychologist Donald Oldung Hebb in his work on the function of Neurons with common synapses. His Hebb's learning rule describes a mapping of learning into neural networksThe term is used to describe a process in which the frequent interaction of two neurons increases their action potentials in relation to each other.

In a study conducted by the University of Göttingen in 2018, it was found that People learn much faster with positive associations than with negative or neutral associations.. Thus, if someone evaluates the sequence of a signal as profitable for him, this leads more quickly to a learning success. The term "strength of association" is also used here, which can lie between zero and a finite value.

In contrast to the previously described approach to learning via linkages, the non-associative learning about information that stands alone. With this information, the organism does not find a connection to a subsequent event.

What are the prerequisites for associative learning?

From the point of view of psychology, learning is about enduring changes in behaviour that result from experience. Accordingly, it is a process that enables living beings to react to situations through previous experiences and by incorporating further experiences.

Associative learning is classical conditioning. This type of learning functions through a conditioned response triggered by a conditioned stimulus. It goes back to the Russian Ivan Pavlov and his still famous discovery when feeding dogs.

What are examples of this form of learning?

In addition to Ivan Pavlov's experiments, the success of this learning method was also confirmed by tests with sea snails and rabbits. Rodents, for example, can be conditioned to new situations with the help of maze or olfactory learning methods.
People also learn more easily when new information can be linked to existing personal impressions, such as places, memories or emotions. This makes it easier for us to remember something than when new information occurs in isolation.