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Introduction to Organizational Behavior


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Chapter 10 : Learning

Significance of Learning

The Theoretical Process of Learning

Behavioristic Theories
Cognitive Theories
Social Learning Theory

Principles of Learning

Law of Effect
Meaning of Reinforcement

Behavioral Management

Steps in the O.B Mod Process
Application of the O.B. Mod Process

Chapter Summary

It has been observed that practically all the behavior of individuals in an organization is either directly or indirectly learned. The most widely accepted learning theories are the behavioristic, cognitive and social learning theories. Learning was attributed to the association or connection between stimulus and response (S-R) by classical behaviorists like Ivan Pavlov and John Watson. Psychologists like B.F. Skinner and others focused more on the role of consequences in learning, or what is usually known as the response-stimulus (R-S) connection.

The S-R connection deals with 'classical' or 'respondent' conditioning while the R-S connection deals with 'instrumental' or 'operant' conditioning. Cognitive learning, popularized by Edward Tolman, explores the relationship between cognitive environmental cues and expectations. This learning of the association between the cue and the expectation is known as stimulus-stimulus (S-S) learning. The social learning theory states that there is more to learning than just the antecedent stimulus and the dependent consequence. Learning can also take place through vicarious or modeling processes. A person's learning abilities also depend upon his concept of self-efficacy.

The most important principles of learning are reinforcement and punishment. In order to understand these principles, we must first understand the 'Law of Effect,' proposed by Edward L. Thorndike. The law states that responses followed by pleasant consequences are more likely to be repeated, while responses followed by unpleasant consequences are not likely to be repeated. Reinforcement is defined as anything that both increases the strength of a response and also induces repetitions of the behavior that preceded the reinforcement. By providing a desirable consequence, positive reinforcement strengthens a specific behavior. In contrast, negative reinforcement strengthens behavior by the termination or withdrawal of an undesirable consequence.

Behavioral management refers to the application of behavioral theories, especially the reinforcement theory, to improve the performance of employees. Fred Luthans and Robert Kreitner coined the term 'Organization Behavior Modification' (O.B Mod) for behavioral management. The O. B. Mod process has five steps. In the first step, the critical behaviors are identified. Critical behaviors are those behaviors that may represent only a fraction of many possible behaviors, but have the greatest impact on total organizational performance. In the second step, a base-line measure is obtained for each critical behavior to determine their frequency prior to any intervention. The third step involves carrying out a functional analysis of the behavior.

The antecedents and consequences of a particular behavior are identified, and these are used to formulate an effective intervention strategy to modify the behavior. In the fourth and most important step in the O. B. Mod process, an appropriate intervention strategy is developed. The objective of the intervention strategy is to strengthen and promote functional behaviors and weaken and discourage dysfunctional behaviors. The last step in the process involves the evaluation of the efficacy of the intervention strategy in bringing about an improvement in performance. This evaluation is carried out at four levels - reaction, learning, behavioral change, and performance improvement.

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