Cognitive Learning (S‐S Learning)

Cognitive learning involves learning a relationship between two stimuli and thus is also called S‐S learning. Types of cognitive learning include latent learning and the formation of insights.

Latent learning. Latent learning (sometimes called incidental learning) is learning without reinforcement and is not immediately demonstrated when it occurs. For example, if a student wants a coffee break, wonders where to go, and suddenly remembers a new coffee shop near campus, the student is demonstrating latent learning. E. C. Tolman, a well‐known investigator of cognitive learning, suggested that organisms form cognitive maps of their environments, maps that can be used when needed.

Insight. An insight is a new way to organize stimuli or a new approach to solving a problem. A student struggling with a mathematical problem who suddenly sees how to solve it without having been taught additional methods has had an insight. Wolfgang Köhler, a famous Gestalt psychologist, demonstrated that chimpanzees can solve problems using insight. Chimps placed in a cage, with bananas beyond their reach, learned that they could pile up boxes or attach one stick to another to reach and obtain the food. The chimps had not been reinforced for these specific behaviors but learned how to get the food through insight. Once insight has occurred, no further instruction or training is required.