Association theory – Definition & Meaning

Association theory is a psychological concept that explains how humans connect ideas and concepts in their minds. It is the study of how ideas, thoughts, and experiences are linked together in the human mind. Association theory is an essential part of psychology, and it has been used to explain various psychological phenomena.


Association theory is defined as the psychological theory that explains how ideas, thoughts, and experiences are linked together in the human mind. It is the study of how one idea or thought leads to another. According to this theory, the human mind associates ideas and thoughts based on their similarity, contrast, and contiguity.


The concept of association theory can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, who believed that the human mind worked by associating ideas and thoughts. However, it was not until the 17th century that John Locke, a British philosopher, developed a systematic theory of association. Later, the Scottish philosopher David Hume further developed this theory.

Meaning in different dictionaries

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, association theory is defined as “the theory that mental processes are based on the association of ideas, and that complex ideas are built up from simpler ones through this process.”
Merriam-Webster defines association theory as “a theory in psychology: the association of two or more mental states or ideas by virtue of some mutual connection or resemblance.”


Association theory is associated with various psychological phenomena, including memory, learning, language, and perception. It is also associated with behaviorism, a school of psychology that emphasizes the role of the environment in shaping behavior.


Synonyms of association theory include associationism, connectionism, and the law of association.


There are no direct antonyms of association theory, but it is often contrasted with other psychological theories such as structuralism and functionalism.

The same root words

The root words of association theory are “association” and “theory.” Association refers to the act of connecting ideas or thoughts, while theory refers to a set of principles or ideas used to explain a phenomenon.

Example Sentences

  1. According to association theory, our memories are formed by linking ideas and experiences together.
  2. The law of association is a fundamental principle of psychology.
  3. Behaviorism is based on the principles of association theory.
  4. The concept of associationism was first developed by John Locke in the 17th century.
  5. The theory of associationism has had a significant impact on the field of psychology.
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