Learning theories in organisational behavior

Learning theories in organisational behavior


Permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience or practice.

  • Learning is change in behavior it can be adaptive or maladaptive
  • Learning involves some kind of experience, or  practice
  • Learning is reflected in behavior
  • Change in behavior must be relatively permanent
  • Learning occurs throughout one’s life

Behavioral Learning Theory

This theory is represented as an S-R paradigm. The organism is treated as a “black box.” We only know what is going on inside the box by the organism’s overt behavior.

Theories of Learning Include:

How learning occurs can be explained by various way –

  • Classical conditioning
  • Operant conditioning
  • Social learning


  • The association (interrelationship) between stimulus and response is called Conditioning
  • A systematic procedure through which new learning occurs
  • Conditioning is simplest kind of learning

Classical conditioning 

Classical conditioning is learning by association The Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov, and his dog circa 1905 received the Nobel Prize in science for discovery.

The Classical Conditioning Process

  • Behavior is caused by an unconditioned  stimulus.
  • A conditioned stimulus is paired with the unconditioned stimulus.
  • The conditioned stimulus is able to evoke the behavior.


Initially the dog does not respond to the sound or light with salivation, but when the signal is always followed by food for a few trials, the dog salivates at the presence of the signal.

  • After several pairing, the dog salivates at the presence of the signal even though the food may not follow.
  • When this happens, the conditioned response has been established.
  • Classical conditioning is the formation of an association between a conditioned stimulus and a response through the repeated presentation of the conditioned stimulus in a controlled relationship.

Classical Conditioning Theory

  • Classical conditioning starts with a reflex (R): an innate, involuntary behavior.
  • This involuntary behavior is elicited or caused by an antecedent environmental event.
  • For example, if air is blown into your eye, you blink. You have no voluntary or conscious control over whether the blink occurs or not.

Operant Conditioning

  • Operant behavior is a concept given by B.F.SKINNER.
  • The word “operant” derives from the fact that individual have opportunity to  operates on the environment and produces some effect.
  • Operant conditioning is simply learning from the consequences of your behavior
  • It is a form of learning in which the consequences of behavior leads to changes in the probability of a behavior’s occurrence.



  • A rat is placed in the “Skinner’s Box”.
  • The inside of the box is bare except bar and a dish beneath it.
  • As the rat has been deprived of food, he moves around restlessly and accidentally presses the bar.
  • The rate at which the rat pushes the bar defines its “preconditioned operant level”.
  • Each time the rat pushes the bar, a food pellet drops into the dish.
  • The food acts as a reinforce for bar pressing.
  • As the no of trails increases, rat take lesser & lesser time to press bar for food.
  • Conditioning is complete – as rat presses the bar immediately after it is placed in box.

Brief of Social Learning Theory 

  • The view that people can learn through observation and direct experience.
  • A theory stating that learning occurs by observing others  and then modeling the behaviors that leads to favorable outcomes and avoiding punishment.
  • Given by Albert Bandura
  • Bandura called the process of social learning ‘modelling’ and gave four conditions:
  1. Attention: must pay attention to the model.
  2. Retention: must be able to remember the observed behaviour.
  3. Motor reproduction: must be able to replicate the behaviour being observed.
  4. Reinforcement process : a process of increasing the incidence of a (measurable) desirable behavior.


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