After reading this article you will learn about Motivation and Reinforcement of Learning.
Learning and Motivation:
Animal can learn a movement easily if he has the motive to learn it. The motive is an organic need, hunger, thirst or pain. A hungry cat can more quickly learn the trick of pressing a button, coming out of a cage, and eating food than one who is not hungry. Learning is facilitated by hunger. Hence experiments are made with starved animals.
An animal can learn a complex movement easily if he is rewarded for his successful action. If he is not rewarded for his successful action, he cannot learn it quickly. The reward is food for a hungry animal. He eats food for his reward and gets pleasure. The pleasure of eating food is his reward. Experiments were made with three groups of rats.
One group was not hungry and was not given any food at the end of a trial. A second group was hungry but was not given any food. The third group was hungry and given food at the end of a trial. Only the last group that had a motive and was rewarded learned quickly. Thus motivation and reward facilitate animal learning.
Human learning also is influenced by motives. Only organic needs do not play an important part in human learning. Learned or derived motives influence human learning more than organic needs. Competition, within certain limits, is an incentive to learning, and is used successfully in schools. Success in competition has social recognition.
There may be competition between an individual and another or between one group and another. An individual who cannot compete with other individual may be encouraged to beat his own previous record. But competition has an injurious effect both on the successful individual and other individuals in the group.
The former may develop superiority-complex and be unsocial, and the latter may develop inferiority complex and lose self-confidence. Hence competition should not be encouraged too much.
Human learning is influenced by social motives. Praise is an incentive to learning, and blame is a determent. Social and moral actions are praised, and so praise encourages learning them. Antisocial and immoral actions are blamed, and so blame discourages learning them. Reward encourages human learning, and punishment discourages human learning. But punishment has an evil influence upon the offender.
It encourages defiance, of authority, produces mental conflicts, and may bring about delinquency. Hence punishment should be resorted to with extreme caution. Punishment does not act in the negative direction as forcibly as reward does in the positive. Learned acts that are rewarded are repeated and ingrained as habits. But learned acts are not effectively eliminated by punishment.
Interest, innate or acquired, is an incentive to learning. Prejudice and aversion are disincentive to learning. Interest is a subject facilitates human learning. Aversion to it is an effective preventive in learning. Hence the teacher ought to create interest in his pupils in a subject and eradicate his aversion to it.
Learning and Reinforcement:
In conditioned response, the substitute stimulus, e.g., the sound of a bell, must be reinforced by food after a number of times in order to evoke salivation. There is relationship between learning and motivation. Reinforcement depends upon motivation.
If an animal is not hungry, the getting of food is no reward for him. If he is hungry, the sight of food as the goal will be an incentive to his learning an act. Thus learning depends not only upon motivation but also upon reinforcement.