The Joys of Learning
Learning - The process by which relatively permanent changes occur in behavioral potential as a result of experience. (Anderson)
A process that "builds on or modifies understanding, capacities, abilities, attitudes and propensities in the individual." (Inglis, Ling, & Joosten (1999) p. 104-105)
Above are two definitions of learning, in general learning is a process where we gain a better understanding or new abilities from experience. There are different learning theories about how we actually gain our knowledge and skill.
Cognitive theories of learning are about thinking and understanding rather than connecting certain stimuli to certain responses. Cognitive theories look at individuals and how they can learn theories. It is sometimes known as insight learning. In cognitive theories we get our information from our surroundings and work out what has happened using our long and short-term memories as well a previous knowledge and general understanding. Gestaltists believe that learning can be explained better if we look at the parts which make up the whole, rather than looking at the parts separately outside the whole experience.
(Adopted from Stafford-Brown et al)
The Gestalt theory put forward that an individual's perception of stimuli has an affect on their response. If two individuals are exposed to identical stimuli, their reactions to it would be different, depending on their past experiences. This was demonstrated in a study showing subjects chess pieces on a game board. They were shown the board briefly and asked to reconstruct what they saw. They were allowed successive brief looks at the board until they were able to reconstruct the entire board. The study found that experienced chess players did better than inexperienced subjects, when the pieces were situated in a way that resembled an actual game, than if the pieces were placed in a random order (Cook, 1993)
The Gestalt theory hypothesizes that individuals use insight when solving a problem or determining their response to stimuli. Wolfgang Kohler used his observations of chimpanzees to formulate his ideas on insight. Food was placed out of the chimpanzee's reach while objects such as sticks were place in their reach. Kohler observed the monkeys while they attempted to reach the food. He observed that some of the apes learned more quickly than others. In addition, although the monkeys used trial and error to reach the food, their attempts were not consistent and regular as you may expect if they were basing their attempts on the reinforcement of a prior attempt. Nor were there attempts random, but Kohler believed that the chimpanzees used their prior attempts to determine their next attempt. Kohler theorized that the monkeys used insight to solve the problem (Blosser 1973).