Learning Process and Behavior Theories at the Workplace

“Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge through experience which leads to an enduring change in behaviour.” (Huczynski & Buchanan, 2010)

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In normal situations, the learning process will affect the behavior of individuals in several different ways. This paper discusses some of these influences and their outcome by considering some of the behavioral theories. Reputable sources have shown that an individual’s behavior can be changed by the process of learning, which involves a constant search for knowledge and experience (Chance, 2009). This behavior change can either be permanent or short-lived depending on the individual’s learning traits among other external influences. Distinct learning techniques are identified under major psychology, and behaviorism as will be discussed within the paper. In particular, these learning methods are classified within procedural and declarative learning, which is depicted in daily living and working platforms (Miller, 2003). In connection, behavioral, cognitive, and social learning form the key learning theories that give different perspectives on the achievement of different behaviors in people (Domjan, 2009). Further details on the influences of these theories on people are given within the following paragraphs.

First of all, it is essential to mention that the theory of behaviorism is based on the concept of reward and punishment, which are identified as classical and operant conditioning (Chance, 2009). In the former category, learning takes place due to an external stimulus that is used to induce a response from the specimen. This is also referred to as conditioned reflex, and an excellent example is shown by the works of Pavlov. Pavlov was a prominent psychologist who discovered that a bell induced the same effect as food, salivating, after conducting long-term experiments with dogs. Initially, the psychologist presented food to the dogs and realized that salivation would occur; next, he presented the food and rang a bell simultaneously, but with the same result. After some time, he realized that the dogs would still salivate when the bell was rung without presenting the food. In that sense, therefore, it is inevitable to assert that classic conditioning had worked for the dogs, which would salivate every time they perceived the bell sound. Essentially, this is attributed to the reality that there exists a neutral stimulus linked with an unconditioned stimulus, which allows learning to take place (Chance, 2009). This discovery resulted in the application of the concept in several fields, which are common in everyday activities. However, this classical conditioning method is still limited in various ways as there are several complex processes of learning which the method can not address. An excellent example of classical conditioning is the response received when an individual is trapped below the kneecap, which results in flexing the lower leg.

On the other hand, operant conditioning is concerned with the learning that occurs in consequence of behavior as opposed to the classical conditioning theory. Operant conditioning is considered the most effective theory that can be used in defining organizational behavior (Powell, Diane & Lynne, 2009). Employees, for that matter, work because of some objective that happens to be earning income for supporting their daily lives (Furnham, 2005). In that sense, it is clear that the outcome of this theory can alter the environmental condition, as well as affect workers’ behavior (Powell, Diane & Lynne, 2009). An example of operant conditioning can be seen when a person enters a restaurant or completes a hard assignment. In these situations, the stimulus would be to get the food or receive praise respectively.

When there is an association between stimulus and stimulus alone, the resultant approach is known as the cognitive approach (Chance, 2009). As such, this means that there is a direct relationship between the cue and expectancy in the identified situation. For instance, there are several mice types of research, which are put in mazes and expected to learn to complete the mazes. The mice learned to anticipate that some cognitive cues coupled with the option might lead to food. If the mice get this food, the relationship between cue and expectancy becomes strong; hence, results in learning. This concept is different from stimulus-response or response stimulus concepts that are found in classical or operant conditioning.

Lastly, behaviorists consider the social learning theory as the most useful of the three identified theories. In this approach, the main concept involves the adoption of other peoples’ behavior after carefully studying or learning how they behave (Domjan, 2009). This learning approach is seen in our normal lives and accounts for the larger area of learning than the other two theories. During the 1960s, Bandura used the ‘Bobo doll” experiment to highlight the reasoning behind social learning theory. In the experiment, an adult person would attack, hit, and kick the doll, while children observed the behavior. Thereafter, the children enter the room and attack the bobo doll with the same tactics used by the adult person. In that case, therefore, it shows that the children observed the behavior, learned it and finally applied it in the same manner, a concept known as the modeling theory (Miller, 2003). Similarly, individuals in the workplace may imitate the behavior of industrious people and, in the long run, receive a reward for their hard work (Furnham, 2005).

List of References

Chance, P. (2009) Learning and Behaviour: Active Learning Edition. 6th ed. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.

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Domjan, M. (2009) The Principles of Learning and Behavior. 6th ed. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.

Furnham, A. (2005) The Psychology of Behaviour at Work: Individual in the Organization. 2nd ed. New York: Psychology Press.

Miller, A. (2003) Teachers, Parents and Classrom Behaviour: A Psychologica Approach. UK: Open University Press.

Powell, R., Diane, S. and Lynne, H. (2009) Introduction to Learning and Behaviour. 3rd ed. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.

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