In this chapter, we learned that:
- Learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience.
- Principles of classical conditioning can help us to understand stimulus-response associations that form in the workplace.
- Reinforcement, punishment, avoidance learning, and extinction can all be used in the workplace to change behaviour.
- Schedules of reinforcement can be used in the workplace to modify behaviour.
- According to social learning theory, we can also learn behaviours through interaction with your thoughts, actions, and environment. We can also observe rewards and consequences from others and model this behaviour in a process called vicarious learning.
- Our motivation, previous experiences, and other factors can help us to better understand how and why we learn.
- Organizational behaviour management and behavioural self-management can be used to change behaviours in the workplace setting.
Review your understanding of this chapter’s key concepts by taking the interactive quiz below.
Key terms from this chapter include:
- Classical conditioning
- Unconditioned stimulus
- Unconditioned response
- Conditioned stimulus
- Conditioned response
- Law of effect
- Operant conditioning
- Positive reinforcement
- Negative reinforcement
- Reinforcement schedule
- Variable ratio
- Fixed ratio
- Social learning theory
- Reciprocal determinism
- Vicarious learning
- Organizational behaviour modification
- Behavioural self-management
Learning may be defined, for our purposes, as a relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience. See 5.1 Learning
Classical conditioning is the process whereby a stimulus-response (S-R) bond is developed between a conditioned stimulus and a conditioned response through the repeated linking of a conditioned stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus. See 5.2 Classical Conditioning
In classical conditioning, the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) is one that unconditionally, naturally, and automatically triggers a response. In other words, the response takes place without any prior learning. For example, when you smell one of your favorite foods, you may immediately feel hungry. In this example, the smell of the food is the unconditioned stimulus. This example is derived from "Pavlov’s Dog" experiments, which illustrates the process. See 5.2 Classical Conditioning
In classical conditioning, an unconditioned response (UR) is an unlearned response that occurs naturally in reaction to the unconditioned stimulus. For example, if the smell of food is the unconditioned stimulus, the feeling of hunger in response to the smell of food is the unconditioned response. See 5.2 Classical Conditioning
In classical conditioning, the conditioned stimulus is a previously neutral stimulus that, after becoming associated with the unconditioned stimulus, eventually comes to trigger a conditioned response. See 5.2 Classical Conditioning
In classical conditioning, the conditioned response is the learned response to the previously neutral stimulus. For example, the smell of food is an unconditioned stimulus, salivating in response to the smell is an unconditioned response, and the sound of a bell when you smell the food is the conditioned stimulus. The conditioned response would be feeling hungry when you heard the sound of the whistle. See 5.2 Classical Conditioning
The Law of Effect was a precursor to B.F. Skinner's operant conditioning, and was developed by psychologist Edward Thorndike. The Law of Effect states that responses that receive positive outcomes in a given situation will be repeated in that situation, while responses that lead to negative outcomes in a given situation will not be repeated in that situation. See 5.3 Operant Conditioning
Operant conditioning theory is the simplest of the motivation theories. It basically states that people will do those things for which they are rewarded and will avoid doing things for which they are punished. This premise is based on Thorndyke's “law of effect.” See 5.3 Operant Conditioning
A central feature of most approaches to learning is the concept of reinforcement. This concept dates from Thorndike’s law of effect. Hence, reinforcement can be defined as anything that causes a certain behavior to be repeated or inhibited. See 5.3 Operant Conditioning
Positive reinforcement is a method of increasing the desired behaviour (Beatty & Schneier, 1975). Positive reinforcement involves making sure that behaviour is met with positive consequences. For example, praising an employee for treating a customer respectfully is an example of positive reinforcement. See 5.3 Operant Conditioning
Negative reinforcement is also used to increase the desired behaviour. Negative reinforcement involves removal of unpleasant outcomes once desired behaviour is demonstrated. Nagging an employee to complete a report is an example of negative reinforcement. See 5.3 Operant Conditioning
Extinction is used to decrease the frequency of negative behaviours. Extinction is the removal of rewards following negative behaviour. Sometimes, negative behaviours are demonstrated because they are being inadvertently rewarded. For example, it has been shown that when people are rewarded for their unethical behaviours, they tend to demonstrate higher levels of unethical behaviours. See 5.3 Operant Conditioning
Punishment is method of reducing the frequency of undesirable behaviours. Punishment involves presenting negative consequences following unwanted behaviours. Giving an employee a warning for consistently being late to work is an example of punishment. See 5.3 Operant Conditioning
A knowledge of the types of schedules of reinforcement is essential to managers if they are to know how to choose rewards that will have maximum impact on employee performance. There are two groups of reinforcement schedules: continuous and partial reinforcement schedules. A continuous reinforcement schedule rewards desired behavior every time it occurs. A partial reinforcement schedule rewards desired behavior at specific intervals, not every time desired behavior is exhibited. See 5.3 Operant Conditioning
A variable-ratio schedule is one in which rewards are administered only after an employee has performed the desired behavior a number of times, with the number changing from the administration of one reward to the next but averaging over time to a certain ratio of number of performances to rewards. See 5.3 Operant Conditioning
In a fixed-ratio schedule, the reward is administered only upon the completion of a given number of desired responses. In other words, rewards are tied to performance in a ratio of rewards to results. A common example of the fixed-ratio schedule is a piece-rate pay system, whereby employees are paid for each unit of output they produce. See 5.3 Operant Conditioning
A model of learning by psychologist Albert Bandura. Social learning theory is defined as the process of molding behavior through the reciprocal interaction of a person’s cognitions, behavior, and environment. See 5.4 Social Learning Theory
This concept implies that people control their own environment (for example, by quitting one’s job) as much as the environment controls people (for example, being laid off). Thus, learning is seen as a more active, interactive process in which the learner has at least some control. See 5.4 Social Learning Theory
Vicarious learning is learning that takes place through the imitation of other role models. That is, we observe and analyze what another person does and the resulting consequences. As a result, we learn without having to experience the phenomenon firsthand. See 5.4 Social Learning Theory
A systematic way in which reinforcement theory principles are applied is called Organizational Behaviour Modification (or OB Mod). This is a systematic application of reinforcement theory to modify employee behaviours in the workplace. The model consists of five stages. See 5.5 Learning at Work
Behavioral self-management (or BSM) is the process of modifying one’s own behavior by systematically managing cues, cognitive processes, and contingent consequences. See 5.5 Learning at Work
In self-monitoring (stage 1 of Behavioural self-management), the individual tries to identify the problem. For example, if your supervisor told you that your choice of clothing was unsuitable for the office, you would more than likely focus your attention on your clothes. See 5.5 Learning at Work
In self-reinforcement, people can, in effect, pat themselves on the back and recognize that they accomplished what they set out to do. According to Bandura, self-reinforcement requires three conditions if it is to be effective: (1) clear performance standards must be set to establish both the quantity and quality of the targeted behavior, (2) the person must have control over the desired reinforcers, and (3) the reinforcers must be administered only on a conditional basis—that is, failure to meet the performance standard must lead to denial of the reward. See 5.5 Learning at Work