MGHB02H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Machinist, Social Influence, Reinforcement

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21 Apr 2012
Chapter 2 Personality and Learning
(Pages 48-70)
What is Learning?
Learning: A relatively permanent change in behaviour potential that occurs due to practice or
o Practice and experience rule out viewing behavioural changes caused by factors like drug
intake or biological maturation as learning.
o Practice or experience that prompts learning stems from an environment that gives
feedback concerning the consequences of behaviour.
Primary categories of learning content:
o Practical skills include job-specific skills, knowledge, and technical competence.
Employees frequently learn new skills and technologies to continually improve
performance and to keep organizations competitive. Constant improvement is a major
goal and training can give an organization a competitive advantage.
o Intrapersonal skills include skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, learning
about alternative work processes, and risk training.
o Interpersonal skills include interactive skills such as communicating, teamwork, and
conflict resolution.
o Cultural Awareness involves learning the social norms of organizations and
understanding company goals, business operations, and company expectations and
Operant Learning Theory
Operant Learning: Learning by which the subject learns to operate on the environment to
achieve certain consequences. B.F. Skinner (rats accidentally pressed lever food pellet was
released rats gradually learned to operate the lever in order to achieve food).
Operantly learned behaviour is controlled by the consequences that follow it. These
consequences depend on the behaviour, and this connection is what is learned.
E.g., salespeople learn effective sales techniques to achieve sales commissions and avoid
criticism from their managers.
Can be used to increase the probability of desired behaviours and to reduce or eliminate the
probability of undesirable behaviours.
Increasing the Probability of Behaviour
Reinforcement: The process by which stimuli strengthen behaviours.
Reinforcer a stimulus that follows some behaviour and increases or maintains the probability
of that behaviour. Appearance is contingent or dependent on the occurrence of the behaviour.
Positive Reinforcement
Positive Reinforcement: The application or addition of a stimulus that increases or maintains
the probability of some behaviour.
E.g., a securities analyst who learns to scan financial newspapers regularly because his or her
reading is positively reinforced by subsequent successful decisions.
Tend to be pleasant things, such as food, praise, money, or business success. However, the
intrinsic character of stimuli does not determine whether they are positive reinforcers, and
pleasant stimuli are not positive reinforces when considered in the abstract. Whether or not
something is a positive reinforcer depends only on whether it increases or maintains the
occurrence of some behaviour by its application. E.g., the holiday turkey that employers give to
all the employees of a manufacturing plant does not positively reinforce anything.
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Negative Reinforcement
Negative Reinforcement: The removal of a stimulus that in turn increases or maintains the
probability of some behaviour. The removed or prevented stimulus is a negative reinforcer.
Also occurs when a response prevents some event or stimulus from occurring.
Usually aversive or unpleasant stimuli. Increases the probability of some behaviour.
E.g., a cage with an electrified floor that periodically shocks a rat => rat accidentally pulls a lever
that turns off the electricity => rat will learn to operate the lever as soon as it feels the shock.
E.g., managers who continually nag their employees unless the employees work hard. The only
way employees can stop the aversive nagging is to work hard and be diligent.
Negative reinforcers are defined only by what they do and how they work, not by their
unpleasantness e.g., in addition to being a negative reinforce, nagging could also serve as a
positive reinforce to increase the probability of unproductive responses if an employee has a
need for attention and nagging is the only attention the manager provides.
Organizational Errors Involving Reinforcement
Confusing Rewards with Reinforcers. Rewards may fail to serve as reinforcers if organizations do
not make them contingent on specific behaviours e.g., many organizations assign overtime work
on the basis of seniority rather than performance or good attendance.
Neglecting Diversity in Preferences for Reinforcers. Organizations often fail to appreciate
individual differences in preferences for reinforcers e.g., rewarding a workaholic’s extra effort
with time off work => assignment of a challenging task would be more appropriate.
Neglecting Important Sources of Reinforcement. Managers often neglect reinforcers that are
administered by co-workers or are intrinsic to the jobs being performed e.g., potentially
dangerous horseplay may be positively reinforced by the attention provided by a joker’s co-
o Performance Feedback: Providing quantitative or qualitative information on past
performance for the purpose of changing or maintaining performance in specific ways.
In some jobs, feedback contingent on performance may be readily available e.g.,
mechanics can take the cars they repair for a test drive. In other jobs, organizations
must build some special feedback into the job. Most effective when it is (a) conveyed in
a positive manner; (b) delivered immediately after the performance is observed; (c)
represented visually, such as in a graph or chart form; and (d) specific to the behaviour
that is being targeted for feedback.
o Social Recognition: Informal acknowledgement, attention, praise, approval, or genuine
appreciation for work well done from one individual or group to another. When social
recognition is made contingent on employee behaviour it can result in performance
Reinforcement Strategies
To obtain the fast acquisition of some response, continuous and immediate reinforcement
should be used. The reinforcer should be applied every time the behaviour of interest occurs,
and it should be applied without delay after each occurrence.
o Fast acquisition of responses may be desirable when correcting the behaviour of
“problem” employees, training employees for emergency operations, and dealing with
unsafe work behaviours.
o Behaviour that individuals learn under a continuous, immediate reinforcement strategy
tends not to persist when reinforced less frequently or stopped.
Behaviour tends to be persistent when it is learned under conditions of partial and delayed
reinforcement. It will tend to persist under reduced or terminated reinforcement when not
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