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Learning Theory

Types of Learning:
  • Classical Conditioning
  • Operant Conditioning (Instrumental Learning)
  • Cognitive Learning
  • Vicarious Learning

  • Classical Conditioning

    Slide 1:  This slide presents the general graphic representation for classical conditioning.  The diagram shows that the presence or occurrence of a Stimulus results in a particular Response.

    A key point about classical conditioning is that the individual learns via the association of a stimulus and a response, not by "thinking" (i.e., cognitive processing).

    Slide 2:  The slide shows that the presence or occurrence of  Unconditioned Stimulus leads to an Unconditioned Response and that the presence or occurrence of a Conditioned Stimulus leads to a Conditioned Response.

    Slide 3:  Classical Conditioning is illustrated by the work of Pavlov.  A dog is conditioned during its life to salivate (response) in the presence of food (stimulus).  This stimulus response relationship is the "unconditioned" state.  It is a state that the dog brings to the situation (i.e., it already existed).

    The intent is to condition the dog to the sound of the bell (i.e., the "to be" Conditioned Stimulus) so that the dog salivates (i.e., the "to be" Conditioned Response) when it hears the bell.

    Food is presented repeatedly to the dog in the presence of the sound of a bell.  In time, the dog comes to associate the sound of a bell with the presence of food.  The sound of a bell, alone, will eventually cause the dog to salivate, if conditioning has taken place.

    Slide 4:  Marketers use Classical Conditioning in many ways.  One of the classic examples relates to the repositioning of Marlboro cigarettes as a man's vs. a woman's cigarette.  The company knew that when males (and females) thought of a cowboy (Stimulus), they conjured up the image of a masculine individual (Response).  Marlboro used the image of a cowboy with its brand.  Eventually, when people thought of Marlboro cigarettes, the masculine image came to mind.  Marlboro cigarettes was therefore successful in linking the meaning of "Marlboro" with masculine.  Hence, Marlboro cigarettes became a man's vs. a woman's cigarette.

    In the Canadian market, DuMaurier cigarettes used to be thought of as a cigarette for women.  Player's and Export (Export A) cigarettes were cigarettes for men.

    Slide 5:  Another example of the use of Classical Conditioning is with family branding.  A company that has created a strong, positive image for one of it's products will use that the same brand name or the corporate name with new products.

    The original brand name or the corporate name (e.g., Campbell's, General Foods, General Mills) (Stimulus) is linked or given to (i.e., associated with) the new product with the intent that the same positive image (Response) will occur when consumer considers the new product.

    The original brand and the associated image are the Unconditioned Stimulus and the Unconditioned Response respectively.  The new product and the desired response are the "to be" Conditioned Stimulus and the "to be" Conditioned Response respectively.

    The following example illustrates this situation.

    Slide 6:  Sometimes, a particular stimulus leads to a response that is negative in nature.  In this case, it would be unwise for a company to use the same brand name or the corporate name when promoting a new product.  Yugo automobiles (Yugoslovia) and Lada cars (Russia) both were thought of as poor quality cars in Canada.

    Classical conditioning would therefore indicate that, until the quality of the original cars improved, attempts to successfully sell other products would be difficult.

    After the second world war, Japanese products faced the same fate.  Japanese manufacturers, however, have since turned things around.  What is your response when you hear the name: Sony.

    Slide 7:  Classical Conditioning can also explain our response to objects like a snake.  For whatever reason, most people respond negatively when seeing a snake.  Marketers can use such a relationship to direct individuals away from certain behaviour or products.

    The "Skull & Crossbones" image used on products to indicate that the product was poisonous.  However, it was soon realized that kids thought of pirates (Response)[fun and exciting] when they saw such a symbol (Stimulus).  Such a symbol would attract children to the product.

    Since the intent was to keep children away from such products, the skull and crossbones symbol was changed to a newly created symbol, Mr. Yuk.  The Mr. Yuk symbol was soon learned to stand for danger.  Products that were associated with the Mr. Yuk symbol (Stimulus) assumed the same meaning [i.e., keep away, fear] (Response).

    Slide 8:  Another interesting application of Classical Conditioning deals with the use of positive and negative communicators (re: Sleeper Effect).  Companies pay big bucks to use celebrities (etc.) in ads to influence the market because of what they stand for (i.e., positive communicators).  O.J. Simpson appeared in Hertz Rent-A-Car ads before his murder trial, because of his high credibility.  Associating a product with such a person reflects the attempt to transfer the image of the celebrity to the product.

    However, when a celebrity becomes a negative communicator, as was the case for O.J., it would be unwise for a company to use such an individual in the ads, since the new perceived image of the celebrity could transfer to the product.  In such a situation, the communicator would be dropped from all ads and association with the product/company.

    Operant Conditioning [Instrumental Learning]

    Slide 9:  Operant Conditioning is associated with the work by B. F. Skinner (shocking animal to get desired response).
    • Positive Reinforcement:  The result of a given behaviour or action is satisfying to the individual.  Receiving postitive reinforcement increases the probability that the given behaviour will be repeated (e.g., buy a lottery ticket and win; your depressed, so you eat ice cream - feel better; you're are thirsty, drink Coke - satisfies your thirst).
    • Negative Reinforcement:  The removal of an adverse state.  Receiving negative reinforcement increases the probability that the given behaviour will be repeated (e.g., have a cough - take cough syrup - cough goes away).

    • Punishment:  Inflicting a negative state upon the individual (e.g., get speeding ticket for speeding; getting a needle from a doctor; root canal work; paying a higher price than expected for a product; buying shoes that are too small; eating tainted food and getting sick; trying a product for the first time and hating the taste of it).

    Slide 10:  Schedule of Reinforcement for Operant Conditioning
    • Fixed Ratio:  Get reinforcement every nth (e.g., 10th) time carry out a given behaviour.  Any of the three types of reinforcement can apply.
    • Variable Ratio:  On average will get reinforcement for every nth (e.g., 10) times carry out behaviour.  Actual occurrence of reinforcement for every 10 behaviours will vary, but will average out to 1 in 10.
    • Fixed Interval:  Reinforcement will occur after a fixed period of time (e.g., 5 minutes), regardless of number of times behaviour carried out.

    • Variable Interval:  Reinforcement will occur on average after a fixed time period passes (e.g., 5 minutes), but actual time interval will vary (e.g., 2 - 10 minutes) but average the identified time period.

    Cognitive Learning

    Slide 11:  Cognitive Learning
    • Consumer determines that a problem exists.  Mentally recognizes that a "gap" exists between the "actual state" (e.g., hungry) and the "desired state" (e.g., wants to satisfy hunger).  Decides to close "gap" (i.e., to satisfy hunger).
    • Consumer is aware of the "goal" that needs to be achieved.
    • Consumer decides what activities need to be carried out to achieve goal.
    • Through the learning process, consumer gains insight on the steps (i.e., goal path) that need to be carried out to achieve goal (e.g., find appropriate food source).
    • Through correct "cognitive" learning, consumer carries out correct steps and achieves goal (i.e., solves problem - e.g., satisfies hunger).

    Vicarious Learning

    Vicarious learning means one learns not by "behaving," but rather by watching others (i.e., learn by the actions of others).

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