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Chapter 4 Fostering Learning and Reinforcement

Overview of Learning Theories Learning Through Rewards and Punishments* Contingencies of Reinforcement* Schedules of Reinforcement* Social Learning Theory Case: Henry Butts Oldsmobile

Nature of Learning

Learning is a relatively permanent change in knowledge or observable behavior that results from practice or experience. Importance of Learning to OB* [Not in Text]

Most organizational behavior is learned (remember that only 2-12% of behavior is directly linked to personality) By controlling the situation, a manager can influence behavior/performance The manager is held accountable for the performance of his/her subordinates

Overview of the Three Types of Learning

Classical Conditioning: The learning of involuntary, reflexive behavior, such as emotional reactions Operant Conditioning: The learning of voluntary, goal-directed behavior through the direct experience of consequences Social Learning: The learning of voluntary, goaldirected behavior through observation and imitation of others

Classical Conditioning

Unconditioned stimulus (food)

Conditioned stimulus (metronome)

Reflex response (salivation)

Examples of Operant Behaviors and Their Consequences

The Individual


works and is late to work and enters a restaurant and enters a football stadium and enters a grocery store and

is paid. is docked pay. eats. watches a football game. buys food.

Examples of the Three Types of Learning: Which Example Illustrates Each Type?

After a tightening in policy regarding lateness, a worker sees a coworker fired for excessive tardiness, resulting in increased attention to arriving on time After a tightening in policy regarding lateness, a worker receives a written reprimand for being late twice in one month, resulting in increased attention to arriving on time After witnessing a coworkers accidental loss of several fingers in a machinery accident, a worker experiences anxiety when operating the same piece of machinery

Contingency of Reinforcement*

Definition: The relationship between a behavior and the preceding and following environmental events that influence that behavior Basic Components:

Antecedent -- the stimulus that precedes the behavior Behavior -- the behavior emitted in response to the stimulus Consequence -- the positive or negative consequence of the behavior

Important Note: Managers can often control the contingencies of reinforcement influencing their subordinates behavior, and thereby, the behavior itself 7

Example of Contingent Reinforcement

Manager and employee set goal

Manager is silent or reprimands employee

Does employee achieve goal? Manager compliments employee for YES accomplishment

Antecedent (precedes the behavior)

Employee Task Behavior

Consequences Reinforcement (result of the Contingent behavior) on Consequence

Categories of Reinforcers

All reinforcers fall into one of two categories:

Primary Reinforcers -- Based upon the satisfaction of physiological needs, such as food, water, air, sex, escape from pain, etc. (Note that the text defines this as: an event for which the individual already knows the value.) Secondary Reinforcers -- Learned reinforcers; the text defines this as an event that once had neutral value but has taken on some positive or negative value for an individual because of past experience. 9

Types of Contingencies of Reinforcement*

Event is Added Event is Removed

(best to use)

Pleasant Event
Unpleasant Event

Positive reinforcement
(increases behavior)

(decreases behavior)

(decreases behavior)

Negative reinforcement
(increases behavior)

(worst to use)


Rewards Used by Organizations

MATERIAL REWARDS Pay Pay raises Stock options Profit sharing Deferred compensation Bonuses/bonus plans Incentive plans Expense accounts SUPPLEMENTAL BENEFITS Company automobiles Health insurance plans Pension contributions Vacation and sick leave Recreation facilities Child care support Club privileges Parental leave REWARDS FROM THE TASK Sense of achievement Jobs with more responsibility Job autonomy/self-direction Performing important tasks STATUS SYMBOLS Corner offices Offices with windows Carpeting Drapes Paintings Watches Rings Private restrooms SELF-ADMINISTERED REWARDS Self-congratulation Self-recognition Self-praise Self-development through expanded knowledge/skills Greater sense of self-worth

SOCIAL/INTERPERSONAL REWARDS Praise Developmental feedback Smiles, pats on the back, and other nonverbal signals Requests for suggestions Invitations to coffee or lunch Wall plaques


Negative Reinforcement*

Definition: An unpleasant event is occurring which can be removed by emitting the desired behavior Differs from punishment, but may result from the fear of punishment Two types are identified:

Escape Learning: An unpleasant event occurs until the employee emits an escape response to terminate it Avoidance Learning: An employee prevents an unpleasant event from occurring by emitting the proper behavior [Not in Text]


Potential Negative Effects of Punishment*

Recurrence of undesirable employee behavior Undesirable emotional reaction But Short-term leads to decrease in frequency long-term of undesirable employee behavior Aggressive, disruptive behavior Apathetic, noncreative performance


Undesirable employee behavior

Punishment by manager

Fear of manager
Which tends to reinforce High turnover and absenteeism


Punishment and Interpersonal Relations* [Not in Text]

The inappropriate use of punishment increases with:

Anger and/or frustration on the part of the manager Inadequate interpersonal communication

In such cases, this inappropriate punishment creates long term interpersonal problems, by:

Reducing trust Stifling motivation Undermining and/or destroying relationships 14

How to Make Punishment Effective Managers should:

Use the principles of contingent punishment, immediate punishment, and punishment size Praise in public, punish in private Develop alternative desired behavior Balance the use of pleasant and unpleasant events Use positive discipline (i.e., change behavior through reasoning, with an emphasis on personal responsibility or self control, rather than by imposing increasingly severe punishments) 15

Guidelines for Using Contingencies of Reinforcement Managers should:

Not reward all employees the same (i.e., take individual differences into account to reward employees with consequences that they personally value, within the constraints of perceived equity) Consider consequences of both actions and non-actions Make employees aware of what behavior will be reinforced (and then be sure to reinforce it uniformly) Let employees know what they are doing wrong Not punish in front of others Make their response equal to workers behavior

Schedules of Reinforcement*

Definition: The determination of when reinforcers are applied; after every response or only after some responses Two general categories of schedule are:

Continuous Reinforcement: Every behavior is reinforced; the simplest schedule Intermittent Reinforcement: Only some behaviors are reinforced; four types are identified in the text:
Fixed Interval: based on a fixed time interval Fixed Ratio: based on a fixed number of responses Variable Interval: based on a variable time interval Variable Ratio: based on a variable number of responses


Comparisons of Schedules of Reinforcement

SCHEDULE Fixed interval FORM OF REWARD Reward on fixed time basis Reward tied to specific number of responses Reward given after varying periods of time INFLUENCE ON PERFORMANCE Leads to average and irregular performance Leads quickly to very high and stable performance Leads to moderately high and stable performance Leads to very high performance EFFECTS ON BEHAVIOR Fast extinction of behavior Moderately fast extinction of behavior

Fixed ratio

Variable interval

Slow extinction of behavior

Variable ratio

Reward given for some behaviors

Very slow extinction of behavior


Social Learning Theory

Learning viewed as knowledge acquisition through the mental processing of information Individuals learn voluntary behaviors by observing the behavior/consequences of others, cognitively processing that information, and then imitating, or not repeating, that behavior




Five Dimensions of Social Learning Theory

Vicarious Learning



Explanation of the Five Dimensions of Social Learning Theory

People use symbols as cognitive models that serve to guide their behavior People use forethought to anticipate, plan, and guide their behaviors and actions People learn vicariously (indirectly) by observing the behavior of others and the real or imagined consequences of those behaviors People exhibit self-control by taking personal responsibility to learn new behavior even though there is no external pressure to do so People have differing levels of self-efficacy, which differentially influences their learning and behavior 21

Definition: Refers to the individuals confidence in their ability to perform a specific task in a specific situation

Varies by people and tasks Strongly influences learning, with higher levels facilitating learning by enhancing goal setting, effort, and persistence toward success Managers can and should influence subordinates selfefficacy levels 22

Self-Efficacy at Work
I know I can do the job and have outstanding quality Set goals Preserve/practice Creatively solve problems Visualize success Learn from failure

Past Accomplishments

Performance of Others


Avoid difficult tasks Think of excuses for failing Develop low aspirations Quit Blame setbacks on lack of ability or luck

Emotional State

I dont think I can do the job on time and have outstanding quality


How Managers Can Apply Social Learning Theory Managers should:

Identify behaviors that lead to improved performance Select an appropriate model Make sure that employees have requisite skills Create a positive learning situation Provide positive consequences for successful performance (i.e., reinforcement) Develop organizational support for new behaviors (i.e., maintain proper contingencies of reinforcement) 24

Henry Butts Oldsmobile Case Questions

1. 2. 3. How effective is Henry Butts management strategy? Which component of this strategy is now illegal? What is used in its place? Identify or speculate on examples in the case of the following concepts from the chapter:
a) b) c) d) e) Operant learning; social learning Secondary reinforcement Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment Escape or avoidance learning Continuous, fixed ratio, and fixed or variable interval reinforcement schedules