Associative Learning: Definition, Theory & Examples

Associative Learning: Definition, Theory & Examples
Coming up next: Authentic Learning Activities: Examples & Concept

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Associative Learning
  • 1:13 Associative Learning &…
  • 2:59 Associative Learning &…
  • 4:32 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up


Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Theresa Spanella

Theresa has taught college Writing for 15 years and is two classes from completing a doctorate in Education

Associative learning is a theory that states that ideas reinforce each other and can be linked to one another. This lesson will explain the theory of associative learning as well as provide some practical, real-life examples of this type of learning.

Associative Learning

Sit back and close your eyes. Relax yourself and get ready to recall some really specific details. Imagine your mother's left eyebrow. Not her right eyebrow. Not her eyes. Just her left eyebrow. Hard, isn't it? When you try to envision your mother's eyebrow, you see her eyes, cheeks, forehead, nose, chin - her whole face! Why is it so difficult to recall just her eyebrow?

Associative learning is a learning principle that states that ideas and experiences reinforce each other and can be mentally linked to one another. In a nutshell, it means our brains were not designed to recall information in isolation; instead, we group information together into one associative memory. That's why it is difficult to recall just one eyebrow without seeing the whole face.

Associative learning can be a powerful classroom management and teaching tool and has many uses in the classroom. It can be used to help students connect with information more deeply and recall that information with greater accuracy.

Associative Learning and Behavior

Associative learning is a form of conditioning, a theory that states behavior can be modified or learned based on a stimulus and a response. This means that behavior can be learned or unlearned based on the response it generates. For example, a student might know that if she misbehaves in class (stimulus), she will not be permitted to go out for recess (response).

This type of learning can be helpful in classroom management.

Much like conditioning, associative memory can be called upon based on the relationship between two stimuli. Using both positive and negative reinforcers (stimuli used to change behavior), teachers can help students modify their behavior.

Some examples of positive reinforcement are:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account