door to open that let them escape and get food. What was involved in learning to escape in this manner? Thorndike concluded that the cats did not think about how to escape and then do it; instead, they engaged in trial-and-error behavior; see Box 1.1. Sometimes a cat in the puzzle box accidentally pulled the strings while playing and the door opened, allowing the cat to escape. But this event did not appear to produce an insight on the part of
BOX 1.1 A Cat’s Learning
“When put into the box, the cat would show evident signs of discomfort and impulse to escape from confinement. It tries to squeeze through any opening; it claws and bites at the wire; it thrusts its paws out through any opening and claws at everything it reaches…. It does not pay very much attention to the food outside but seems simply to strive instinctively to escape from confinement…. The cat that is clawing all over the box in her impulsive struggle will probably claw the string or loop or button so as to open the door. And gradually all the other unsuccessful impulses will be stamped out and the particular impulse leading to the successful act will be stamped in by the resulting pleasure, until, after many trials, the cat will, when put in the box, immediately claw the button or loop in a definite way” (Thorndike, 1913:13).