Bu288 Lecture 4 Ch 2: Personality & Learning Thurs. Sept. 20. 2012.
WHAT IS LEARNING?
• Learning: occurs when practice/experience leads to a relatively permanent change in
behaviour potential practice/experience that prompts learning stems from an environment
that gives feedback concerning the consequences of behaviour (does not include changes
by drug intake, etc.)
• The what aspect of learning is described as learning content, of which there are 4 primary
1) Practical skills: job-specific skills, knowledge, and technical competence.
2) Intrapersonal skills: problem solving, critical thinking, learning alternate work processes,
3) Interpersonal skills: interactive skills such as communicating, teamwork, and conflict
4) Cultural awareness: learning social norms of firms; understanding company goals,
Theory 1: OPERANT LEARNING THEORY
• Operant learning: subject learns to operate on the environment to achieve certain
consequences. This connection between the behaviour and its consequences is what is
• increase probability of desired behaviours& reduce/eliminate probability of undesirable
• Ex: BF Skinner confined rats in a box containing a lever that delivered food when pulled.
The rats eventually acquired the lever-pulling response as a means of obtaining food.
Increasing the Probability of Behaviour
• Reinforcement: process where stimuli strengthen behaviours strongly affects behaviour
• Organizations want to maintain/increase the probability of behaviours like correct
• Positive Reinforcement: application/addition of a stimulus that increases/maintains the
probability of some behaviour. Behaviour reinforcement received behaviour repeated
o The appearance of the reinforcer depends on occurrence of the behaviour.
o In the Skinnerian situation, the probability of the lever operation increased over time.
Food pellets were positive reinforcers because they were introduced after the lever was
o positive reinforcer depends on whether it increases/maintains some behaviour (not just
being pleasant) Ex: giving a turkey to all workers doesn’t positively reinforce anything
• Negative reinforcement: removal of a (bad) stimulus that thus increases/maintains the
probability of some behaviour. Behaviour (bad) reinforcement not received behaviour not
o If you can pull a lever to prevent an electric shock, then the shock is the negative
reinforcer for the lever pulling, increasing the probability of the behaviour by its removal.
o Negative reinforcers are defined by what they do, not by their unpleasantness
• Organizational Errors Involving Reinforcement
o Confusing rewards with reinforcers: rewards fail to serve as reinforcers because
organizations don’t make them contingent on specific behaviours that are of interest to
o Neglecting diversity in preferences for reinforcers: Managers should explore the
possible range of stimuli under their control for their applicability as reinforcers for
1 Bu288 Lecture 4 Ch 2: Personality & Learning Thurs. Sept. 20. 2012.
o Neglecting important sources of reinforcement: focusing on potential reinforcers of a
formal nature (ex: pay) managers neglect those by co-workers or are intrinsic to the jobs.
- Performance feedback: providing info on past performance to change/maintain
performance in specific ways. Most effective when
A. Conveyed in a positive manner
B. Delivered immediately after performance is observed
C. Represented visually, like graphs or chart form
D. Specific to the behaviour being targeted for feedback
- Social recognition: informal attention/praise for work well done from one person to
• Reinforcement Strategies
- For acquiring new behaviours, use continuous and immediate reinforcement
- if you want the desired behaviour to persist, apply reinforcement occasionally and after
Reducing the Probability of Behaviour
• Extinction: the gradual dissipation of behaviour following the termination of (good)
o Terminate the reinforcement that is maintaining some unwanted behaviour
o Works best when coupled with reinforcement of some desired substitute behaviour
• Punishment: application of an aversive stimulus following some (bad) behaviour, designed
to decrease the probability of that behaviour. To use effectively:
o Provide correct alternatives: While punishment tells which actions are wrong, it
doesn’t show which actions should replace the punished response. When the
punishment is removed, the behaviour will recur. Reinforcers show what SHOULD
o Limit emotions involved: Punishment provokes a strong emotional reaction on the
punished, especially when it seems unfair or is delivered in anger. Managers should be
o Make sure the chosen punishment is truly aversive: make sure it is a negative thing
o Punish immediately: or if immediate punishment is difficult, delay it until a more
appropriate time and then reinstate the circumstances surrounding the problem
o Do not reward unwanted behaviours before/after punishment: due to guilt after
o Do not inadvertently punish desirable behaviour
THEORY 2: SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEORY
• Behaviour is best explained through a system of triadic reciprocal causation:
environmental & personal factors both influence behaviour. But behaviour influences
environment & personal factors. Thus, operant learning & social cognitive theory are
complements in explaining learning & OB.
• Emphasizes role of cognitive processes in regulating behaviour behaviour is not simply
due to environment, but people have cognitive capacity to regulate their own thoughts,
• Behaviour takes place without conscious control of reinforcers by managers. People can
observe the behaviour of others, and can regulate behaviour by thinking about
consequences of actions (forethought), setting performance goals, monitoring their
2 Bu288 Lecture 4 Ch 2: Personality & Learning Thurs. Sept. 20. 2012.
performance and comparing it to their goals, and rewarding themselves for goal
• Involves 3 components
1) Observational learning: process of