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Operant Conditioning Essay

2032 words - 9 pages

Question : Discuss the utility of operant conditioning in contemporary organisations

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The reward system is a collection of brain structures which attempt to regulate and control behavior by inducing pleasurable effects. Positive reinforcement for good work in contemporary organisations can take the form of a pay check, bonus, promotion, raise, more flexibility in hours, increase in vacation days, and praise.

In addition to the positive reinforcement of the response through a second stimulus (primary reinforcement), a third stimulus, associated with the reinforcing stimulus, can strengthen the response further. This is known as secondary reinforcement. An example in contemporary organisations could be a data capturing clerk learning to capture data (first stimulus) effectively (response), it is primarily reinforced by constructive guidance and praise from the supervisor. The supervisor’s attitude towards the data capture clerk and her performance has a secondary effect, namely the respect of colleagues, which gives her more status in the work group. On one hand secondary reinforcement results from the response, which may cause the response to recur, and on the other hand it enhances the value of the primary reinforcement. Higher status in the work group gives even more weight to the praise of the supervisor.

Giving rewards may not result in the desired effect or behavior. The reward must stimulate the employee to produce the desired behavior. This means that the reinforcer should be highly motivating to the individual. For example, in the workplace a pay check or a bonus is a highly motivating factor for many employees but some employees may prefer to be reinforced through an all-expense paid trip with their family or a symbolic gesture of the work they have achieved.

Contemporary organisations can also use negative reinforcement which is “any outcome which, when removed, strengthens the link between a response and the stimulus which produced it” (Rollingson et al, 1998:221). Negative reinforcement uses the reward system. A person is rewarded for desired behavior by having something unpleasant removed. This removal is the reward. For example, in the workplace a person may find it undesirable to be monitored closely. If a person is doing their job to the held standard or quickly finish a task, they may not be monitored as closely anymore. This removal of the monitoring is the reward for consistently doing their job well. Another example of negative reinforcement could be a new employee at a fast food chain having to clean the public bathrooms as part of their job as a new hire. By performing this well and other tasks, eventually this unpleasant task could be removed as a way to keep this person interested and motivated to do well as they advance in job title and pay raise.

Organisations can also use punishment which comes in two forms of positive and negative. Positive Punishment: Gives individuals what they do not like when they have performed the undesired behavior (Griggs, 2009).Negative Punishment: Removes what...

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