association describes the setting up and linking of connections of thoughts and ideas as part of human perception. The German term goes back to the French word “associer” and the late Latin “associare”. Both words are translated with the German verb “connect”.
With the association as part of perception, humans absorb information and interpret it accordingly.
With the association as part of perception, humans absorb information and interpret it accordingly. He uses his sensory abilities (see, hear, taste, smell and feel) to connect the information obtained and associate it with ideas, thoughts and images. In this way he is able to communicate and interact with his fellow human beings.
Only the sensitivity is not tied to any sense organ (eyes, nose, ears, sense of taste), but arises on the basis of a network of different receptors and free nerve conditions that are distributed throughout the body. With a few exceptions, associations are subjective, because everyone perceives, processes and connects sensory impressions differently. When we see a rose, we think of a pleasant scent, while when we think of a lemon scent we not only think of a lemon, but maybe also of the detergent in the kitchen.
However, associations can arise not only through a learning process, but also through everyday life situations. Every phase of life is associated with different associations such as joy, love, suffering, fun, work, success, failure, grief, illness or old age.
Associations accompany our everyday life. With the word “beach” people associate sun, warmth and relaxation, they remember their last vacation. The taste of certain dishes, for example rice pudding with cherries and cinnamon, bring back memories of childhood. Certain music is associated with the memory of a special stage in life, for example the first party, the first kiss or the first friend.
Associations can also be determined by culture, religion and different areas of the earth. The scent of a certain perfume is reminiscent of a special person, fragrant herb meadows associate some with health and wellbeing.
Associations can also have negative connotations. Failures in school can trigger negative thought associations. A person who did not enjoy learning in school due to bad grades and failures will often maintain this aversion even as an adult, as learning is still associated with negative experiences for him.
People who have been traumatized by war experiences are frightened by unexpected, loud noises and associate them with the crisis situations they have experienced.
Individual words or sentences can also trigger associations. The historic sentence “I am a Berliner” makes many people think of the American President John F. Kennedy during his state visit to Berlin in 1961.
The so-called turnip winters in wartime have in turn caused a lifelong pathological aversion to turnip stew in many people. They associated turnips with hunger, cold, loneliness and poverty.
Association can also provide the starting point for problem solving. Psychologists often use the method of free association in their therapy sessions. It is an important instrument for researching the human world of thought and, in addition to the analysis of failures and the interpretation of dreams, represents the most important pillar of psychoanalysis. The patient is asked to name a word from the area of the problem that burdens him. If the patient suffers from excessive stress, the psychologist asks him to name words that occur to him when the word "stress" occurs. The patient then writes them down, for example. Every word brings a new association with it. Stress can be associated with lack of rest, balance, too much work, overtime, marital problems, vacation, rest and relaxation. The patient becomes so aware that he needs more rest and balance in order to remain productive at work. He resolves to consistently stick to his breaks, to introduce improved time management in order to work less overtime. This approach ultimately enables him to spend more free time with, for example, his family. The analyst also makes use of association, because he connects the ideas, thoughts and feelings of the patient with one another and interprets them in such a way that they result in a meaningful explanatory context.
If the ability to perceive the association is restricted or if it no longer works, doctors and psychologists speak of an association disorder. The affected patients show a disturbed composition in the content of their thinking.
Psychology and psychiatry know individual psychopathological phenomena and psychological disorders in which the composition of the content of consciousness is more or less severely impaired. Many patients suffer from mild association disorders that normal mental life can bring with it in the form of alienation.
A more difficult association is with overtiredness, stress and exhaustion. These phenomena of normal mental life then turn into disease-related and psychological disorders when the patient suffers from neuroses, psychoses, paranoia and schizophrenia, for example. These clinical pictures can no longer be treated by the family doctor, but are transferred to the field of psychiatry and psychology.
If the patient suffers from severe association disorders, he is no longer able to correct his point of view through the real situation. Also in the case of diseases that fall into the area of memory impairment, such as dementia, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, vascular dementia and memory disorders, the patients show association disorders. These are cognitive disorders, some of which are associated with mood disorders (impaired feelings). The most common illness is depression.