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Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief

ASSOCIATIONISM.

From an associationist viewpoint, knowledge itself is believed to be acquired mainly through the establishment of associational connections. The evolution of mental abilities, both ontogenically and phylogenically, is regarded as linked to the acquisition of capacities for forming and holding onto more and more complex linkage patterns between bits of information. Even very primitive organisms such as amebas learn to associate chemical stimuli with noxious conditions, as a kind of conditioned learning. The most highly developed mammals in terms of social learning. such as dolphins, whales, elephants, and the higher primates, have brains that can process information about shifting roles of affiliation between self and others. This is believed to be what makes complex status hierarchies and attachments possible.

Associationism has been transformed in modern cognitive sciences, including cognitive-psychodynamic integrations, into a theory of parallel, distributive, unconscious mental processing. The flow of associated bits of information is no longer regarded as necessarily linear, from one bit to the next. The basic concepts are that several networkings of associations can be processing simultaneously

ATHLETES

Within a developmental framework, Ericsson has shown that successful performers carried out significantly more “deliberate practice,” or effortful practice with the intent of improving current performance, than less successful performers, and that musicians and others shared this characteristic with athletes. The fact that these exceptional performers did not excel with laboratory tasks that supposedly measured innate capacities led him to conclude that exceptional performance was driven by environmental rather than innate biological factors. The main constraints which limited deliberate practice were those of effort, motivation, and human and physical resources. Aside from any innate predispositions which athletes may possess, Bloom points out that parents and coaches are central agents in the development of exceptional performance in sport.

American sociologist Jay Coakley has shown that the sport culture and subcultures have their specific values, beliefs, and attitudes, and that children who successfully internalize these dimensions become socialized into the sport culture, as a precursor to success.

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