Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Learning to Learn

  • Roger K. ThomasEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_739-1



Learning to learn refers to the observation that prior learning often facilitates subsequent learning.


… in the late 1940s he [Harlow] achieved a major conceptual and methodological breakthrough with his discovery of learning sets. (Suomi and LeRoy 1982, p. 321)

Harlow’s 1949 article, clearly describing for the first time, the concept of learning set formation, is one of the most widely cited articles in the animal behavior literature. (Schrier and Thompson 1984, p. 109)

Harry F. Harlow (1905–1981) is known for discovering the learning set (e.g., learning how to learn) phenomenon …. (Rumbaugh 1997, p. 197)

Despite Harlow’s students’ (e.g., Schrier and Suomi) and colleagues’ enthusiasm for attributing the “discovery” of “learning to learn” to Harlow, it had been known in various guises, such as “formal discipline” or “transfer of training,” at least, since the 1890s (Hall 1966, pp. 477–479)....

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kenneth Leising
    • 1
  1. 1.Texas Christian UniversityForth WorthUSA