Approaches to Individual Learning & Behaviour

Methods of Shaping Behaviour using Learning Theories

Till now we discussed about the causes of behavior and factors affecting them. But in this chapter, we are going to study how to shape a person’s behavior. We have five ways of shaping individual behavior with respect to their original conduct −

  • Positive reinforcement
  • Negative reinforcement
  • Punishment
  • Extinction
  • Schedules of reinforcement

Let us try to understand all these unique methods one at a time.

Positive Reinforcement

It occurs when a desirable event or stimulus is given as an outcome of a behavior and the behavior improves. A positive reinforcer is a stimulus event for which an individual will work in order to achieve it.

For example − A company announces a rewards program in which employees earn prizes depending on the number of items they sold.

Negative Reinforcement

It occurs when an aversive event or when a stimulus is removed or prevented from happening and the rate of a behavior improves.  A negative reinforcer is a stimulus event for which an individual will work in order to terminate, to escape from, to postpone its occurrence.

For example − A company has a policy that an employee can have a Saturday off only if he completes the assigned work by Friday.

Punishment

The creation of some unpleasant conditions to remove an undesirable behavior.

For example − A teenager comes home late and the parents take away the privilege of using the cell phone.

Extinction

The process of eradicating any type of reinforcement causing any undesirable behavior.

For example − A child who crawls under the table to hide and seek attention, gradually stops doing so when the attention is withdrawn.

Schedules of Reinforcement

The schedules of reinforcement can be of five types − continuous, fixed interval, variable interval, fixed ratio, and variable ratio.

Continuous

A schedule of reinforcement in which every occurrence of the desired outcome is followed by the one who reinforces. For example − Each time a child puts Rs. 1 in a candy machine and presses the buttons he receives a candy bar.

Fixed interval

Conduct of reinforcement with intervals but sufficient enough to make the expected behavior worth repeating. For example − Working of washing machine.

Variable interval

Conduct of reinforcement with an average of n amount of time. For example − Checking e-mail or popping quizzes. Going fishing—we might catch a fish after 20 minutes.

Fixed ratio

Oversight of reinforcement when rewards are spaced at uniform time intervals. For example − Salary.

Variable ratio

Oversight of reinforcement when rewards are spaced at unpredictable time intervals. For example − Commission in sales.

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Organizational Behavior by Icfai Business School is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.