Thorndike, Edward Lee
Educational psychologist and author of the intelligence test bearing his name, Edward L. Thorndike also is known for his work in educational statistics. He studied under William James (see also Vol. 4) at Harvard University and carried out experiments on animal intelligence with some chickens that he kept in the basement of James's house---his landlady having refused to let him keep them in his room. Thorndike's first papers were on "The Psychology of Fishes" and "The Mental Life of Monkeys" When he received his doctorate from Columbia University in 1898, the statistical treatment of test results in psychology was experimental. He became an instructor in genetic psychology at Teachers College in 1899. He believed that "everything that exists exists in quantity" and could be measured as a key to scientific progress in education. He devised scales for measuring excellence in reading, English composition, handwriting, and drawing, as well as intelligence tests for various grade levels. The former dean of Teachers College James E. Russell said of him: "His service to pedagogical procedure has revolutionized educational administration." Thorndike's "Law of Effect," which had its origin in his early tests on animals, was strengthened by his later experiments on human learning. He concluded that the important factors in learning are repetition and reward. His techniques of animal experimentation and his methods of psychological measurement were important advances in U.S. psychology before World War I, and he often is thought of as the founder of modern educational psychology.
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