Associationism is the idea that mental processes operate by the association of one state with its successor states.

The idea is first recorded in Plato and Aristotle, especially with regard to the succession of memories.

Members of the principally British "Associationist School", including John Locke, David Hume, David Hartley, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, Alexander Bain and Ivan Pavlov, asserted that the principle applied to all or most mental processes. Later members of the school developed very specific principles elaborating how associations worked and even a physiological mechanism bearing no resemblance to modern neurophysiology. For a fuller explanation of the intellectual history of associationism and the "Associationist School", see Association of Ideas.

Some of the ideas of the Associationist School anticipated behaviorist psychology, especially the idea of conditioning.

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