The story is legendary albeit anecdotal: Skinner's students decided to try out the shaping technique on Skinner himself by making him give his lectures from the door, with one foot in the hallway instead of from the podium. When Skinner was lecturing from the podium, they pretended to be disinterested by looking bored and shuffling their feet. As soon as the instructor took one step away from the podium, they pretended to pay attention and showed keen interest in the lecture.
When Skinner became conditioned to lecturing one step away from the podium, students raised the criterion for their attention to two steps away from the podium. Eventually, by raising the criteria, each time further and further away from the podium, they were able to make Skinner give his lectures from the door, with one foot in the hallway. He would occasionally run to the podium to look at his notes and then return to the door to continue his lecture.
Research on Reinforcement Theory, like any other research, must be conducted using rigorous methods Redmond, According to Stangor , the set of assumptions, rules, and procedures that scientists use to conduct research is called the scientific method. The scientific method increases objectivity by placing the data under the scrutiny of fellow scientists and informs them of the methods used to collect the data.
The example took place in a college psychology class where most of the students had decided to test the principles of reinforcement on their own professor. The students had noticed that the professor had the annoying and distracting habit of pacing back and forth in the front of the classroom during his lectures.
Using the principles of Reinforcement Theory, they set out to end this habit. To do this, the students who were in on the experiment sat in the first two or three rows of the classroom as the lecture began. When the professor stood in the center of the classroom, the students in the experiment would act as though they were immensely involved in the lecture, eyes locked in.
When the professor would wander off center, they acted disinterested and uninvolved. Reinforcement Theory was clearly in action in this example. As the professor wandered to the sides of the room, he was punished by students who became disinterested in his lecture. This was negative punishment.
In a study by Del Chiaro , the use of verbal positive reinforcement as a means of improving employee job satisfaction was examined. Five supervisors were trained in the use of verbal positive reinforcement.
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The supervisor's employees then completed job satisfaction surveys following job training during a baseline, intervention, and post-test phase Del Chiaro, Analysis of the results of the employee surveys revealed no clear patterns, but when the means of all the supervisors were added, there was a small increase in job satisfaction ratings. Since the validity data the supervisors submitted was incomplete, the small increase could not be solely attributed to the verbal positive reinforcement Del Chiaro, Del Chiaro concludes that based on the data, "training supervisors in the use of positive verbal reinforcement has no negative effect on employee job satisfaction" p.
According to this study, verbal positive reinforcement may increase job satisfaction slightly, but it is more likely that it does not decrease job satisfaction. Under this schedule, cocaine dose-dependently increased responding relative to placebo, indicating that cocaine functioned as a positive reinforcer Stoops, The groups created consisted of employees that either performed complex tasks, or performed relatively simple tasks.
Each group was then broken into subgroups for a total of 4 groups. The complex group was reinforced with money and paid leave, or outcome and process feedback.
The simple group was reinforced with an informal dress code, or flexible working hours. There were 36 employees that made up this group and their daily jobs were to develop new software, train employees on the new software, accounting, and auditing. One subgroup 18 employees received discounts on products sold by the company and were offered paid leave for an additional half day every month.
The monetary reinforcer worked well and employee purchases at the retail store almost doubled after the reinforcers were used. The second subgroup 18 employees of group G1 received outcome and process feedback. Outcome feedback communicated to the employee what their performance level was against the set standard Raj et al.
Process feedback conveyed to each employee how the performance was executed, and, more importantly, as to what should be done in future to improve their performance Raj et al. This group of employees 40 in number performed simple task. All of the 40 employees were asked to list what would motivate them and make them feel comfortable in their work spot, which in turn would lead to an increase in their performance Raj et al.
The biggest reinforcer chose was informal dress code. Out of 40 employees, 23 of them selected this reinforcer. Plus, the formal dress code made them very uncomfortable because of the weather in India. The remaining 17 employees that made up G2 viewed working hours that were flexible would be the best reinforcer.
They suggested that management allow them to leave early in lean seasons as soon as the task assigned to them for that day was completed Raj et al. When the season was at its peak the same workers would work longer hours to ensure all tasks were completed before leaving. The aggregate behavior of G11 came down from Money and social recognition are better reinforcers than feedback for less complex tasks according to previous literature. This experiment shows that providing suggestions and information for future improvement has a more enduring benefit than does the use of monetary discounts combined with increased paid leave Raj et al.
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Reinforcement was successful, but management needs to come up with new reinforcements to maintain a high level of performance among employees. Besides an increase in job performance there was an increase in satisfaction for G2. Their attitudes were better than before, their willingness to do the jobs assigned to them was higher, and their spirits were high Raj et al. While Reinforcement Theory is widely accepted and deployed universally and the positive effects are commonly known, there are aspects to consider when adopting practices based on this theory. The basis for this theory is extrinsic motivation which critics say can offend those whose behavior is the subject.
Further evidence reveals that if the target of the behavior modification is aware of the attempt, certain personality types will do everything in their power to skew the results Gergen, The culture needs to be examined to determine if the reward holds value. What held value twenty years ago, may not hold value today. Provides clues to motivation. Unlike Needs Theory of motivation which focused on internal needs, Reinforcement Theory is based on external conditions. Within the workplace, organizational management theorists look to the environment to explain and control people's behavior.
Because of this, it may be easier to motivate a group of workers through external factors such as pay raise, promotion, etc Operant Conditioning, Keeps employees involved. Installing a schedule of reinforcement, such as a variable interval schedule will keep employees on their toes. The employee does not know exactly when a test or performance review is coming, so they cannot afford to work poorly on a given task Redmond, Reinforcement Theory deals with learned behaviors, therefore it is easy to apply to organizational management. Upon joining a company, workers deal with certain stimuli, responses, and their consequences.
Because the behaviors are rewarded or punished, it can be easy to encourage or change workers' responses by manipulating the stimuli Operant Conditioning, Impressive research support. Reinforcement Theory has had substantial research done in the workplace. This research has shown impressive results due to its focus on observable behaviors. Disregards internal motivation. One main weakness in dealing with Reinforcement Theory is the difficulty to identify rewards or punishments Booth-Butterfield, Each human being is different and unique, and Reinforcement Theory has to take this into account.
A reward that works for one person may not work for someone else.
For example, one person may be lacking self-confidence, so higher praise from a manager may act as a reward. If only a raise in pay were the reward in this situation, the lack of self-confidence would still be evident and an increase in productivity would not be present.
Hard to apply to complicated forms of behavior. It is not equally reliable in all situations. Using it to impact behaviors involved in complicated task work can be problematic. It is easier to reinforce behavior that applies to a simple task because positive and negative behaviors are easier to keep track of and modify Redmond, Imposes on freewill. The control and manipulation of rewards in order to change behavior is considered unethical by some Redmond, Effectivity often expires. Even when an acceptable reward or punishment is met, they often become less meaningful over time Booth-Butterfield, The reward of praise seen above, for instance, becomes much less desirable after the person receives a boost in self-confidence.
Now, the manager may have to move on to another reward to keep the motivation fresh. Can be complicated.
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The punishment aspect of Reinforcement Theory can be difficult to apply well. According to Booth-Butterfield , for punishment to be effective, a few guidelines may be required:.enter
Findings and conclusions of behaviorism, to a large extent, are based on research with animals. Thorndike used cats, Pavlov used dogs, and Skinner - pigeons and rats. Many aspects that are important to human beings, such as problem-solving and thinking process, are not addressed by behaviorism. The emphasis is on the environmental stimuli that modify behavior, not on any internal factors that may be present Funder, Despite the initial success that behaviorism enjoyed, some researchers believed that it ignored many important psychological phenomena.
One of the first ones was German Psychologist Wolfgang Kohler. Kohler believed that animals, specifically chimpanzees, developed insight regarding their situation, thereby developing an understanding regarding their condition. The emphasis here was the immediacy at which the chimpanzees applied their response, as opposed to a more gradual learned behavior.
This indicated a comprehension and understanding of stimuli and consequences resulting in immediate responses Kohler, ; Gleitman, Kohler's research on insight applied to behaviorism would eventually lead to the beginnings of social learning theory, as well as some cognitive research Funder, The last guideline - the punishment should be consistent - may be the most important. If the punishment is not consistent, the employee will not associate his or her error with the punishment. When there is consistency, the employee will try to avoid the punishment by fixing their error and proceeding in the fashion the manager would like.
In Conversation with Skinner , he mentions that it is important to identify the desired consequence, which will elicit the desired behavioral response.
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