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trial and errorVersuch und Irrtum (ger.)

  • With reference to the theory that a primitive form of learning results, over a series of trials, from erroneous random responses to a problem being replaced by the correct response, rather than from insight. (OED 2012)

    They may be all readily solved by the following easy rule of Double Position, sometimes called Trial-and-Error.

    Hutton, C. (1806). A Course of Mathematics for Use of Academies as Well as Private Tuition, vol. 1, 5th ed.: 256.


    The process [of carrying a stick by a dog] was throughout one of trial and error; gradually he found the most comfortable way of carrying that stick, and adopted it. Incidentally he was solving in a practical way a problem in mechanics; he was finding the centre of gravity of the stick.

    Lloyd Morgan, C. (1894). Introduction to Comparative Psychology: 241.


    If the method of trial and error, with accidental success, be the method of acquiring associations among the animals, the slow progress of primitive man, the long time between stone age and iron age, for instance, becomes suggestive.

    Thorndike, E.L. (1898). Animal Intelligence: 105-6.


    the method of varied trial and error with the utilization of chance success, is a lengthy and somewhat clumsy process; but it suffices.

    Lloyd Morgan, C. (1900). Animal Behaviour: 139.


    This method of learning may be called the method of trial and error […] or […] the animal method of learning.

    Thorndike, E.L. (1901). The Human Nature Club. An Introduction to the Study of Mental Life: 38


    trial and error learning The development of an association between a stimulus and an independent activity as the result of reinforcement q. v. during appetitive behaviour.

    Lincoln, R.J., Boxshall, G.A. & Clark, P.F. (1982). A Dictionary of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics: 251.