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How we (humans and animals) acquire knowledge through learning has been thought to involve the process of associating—a psychological activity whereby one thing is connected with another. Accounts of how this occurs have been provided through the doctrine of associationism, one of the oldest and most influential theories of how the mind works. Associationism attempts to explain what exactly connects with what and the conditions necessary for the connecting to occur.

An embryonic account of associationism first appeared in Aristotle’s Memory and Reminiscence. He proposed that remembering begins with an intuition that is either similar to, contrary to, or occurring close in time to (contiguous with) the idea we seek to remember. This conception of memory dominated until the 17th century when a more developed ...

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