Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Law of Effect

  • Susana Carnero-SierraEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_752-1



The Law of Effect is one of the basic laws of learning formulated by Thorndike. It states that a behavior followed by appetitive consequences will tend to be repeated in the future.


Edward Lee Thorndike published an experimental work in 1898 that not much later was explicitly defined as the Law of Effect, as Thorndike stated in his book Animal Intelligence (Thorndike 1898, 1911). In this work, Thorndike addressed three relevant topics in learning: the comparative role of learning between humans and other animals, the experimental methods employed to investigate similitudes and differences in behavior between species, and, finally, the Law of Effect (Lattal 1998). All these topics were focused outside the anecdotic method for animal reasoning, as Thorndike effusively defended.

The formulation of the explicit Law of Effect could be seen as a legacy from Darwin’s evolution theory (Postman 1947)....

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad de OviedoOviedoSpain

Section editors and affiliations

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