Some children and adults appear to have a strong associational learning style. They seem attracted by novelty, thrive on a personal connection to the material, and appear to be highly independent thinkers. Some educators have connected these traits to "attention deficit disorders", but Turner and colleagues at the University of Cambridge have at least found that the front part of the brain (an area often implicated as being faulty in ADD) is very necessary for this style of thinking. The positives of associational thinking are creativity and flexibility. The negatives are distraction and disorganization. We found this study to be thought provoking because scientists saw the greatest flare in activity when the brain was surprised by the unexpected pairing of two objects. Rather than associational learning being a tedious random process of repeated trial-and-error, it was a system made a prediction early, but then was also prepared to learn the most from the biggest surprise.
The Role of the Lateral Frontal Cortex in Causal Associative Learning: Exploring Preventative and Super-learning -- Turner et al., 10.1093/cercor/bhh046 -- Cerebral Cortex