I asked, above, the question: "Can you think of some aspect of learning that is not simply forging such links?"
My suggested answer to this is as follows. I regard the forging of links as being associative learning. We are associating one thing with another. We have two existing processes in existing systems and we create a simple associative link between them.
It seems to me that it is useful to think of another kind of learning as generalising. This arises when we are doing more than forging links between existing systems but creating something at a higher level. As an example a child might start by associating two dogs with two apples, but with no idea of "twoness". There comes a point, however at which the idea of twoness arises, almost magically, from the process of associating more and more groups of two things. And in most people it is usually enough to give them a few examples of something and they seem to leap to a generalisation; an understanding of what the things have in common.
On the whole the lower animals, and lower systems in the brain learn primarily in the associative mode. Humankind, and the more intelligent the person, the more this is so, seems also to learn by generalising, or abstracting.
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