Stimulus Generalization and Stimulus Discrimination in Organizations

Stimulus Generalization in Organizations

Stimulus generalization refers to how people recognize the same or similar stimuli in different settings. In other words, it is the process by which they can generalize a contingent reinforcement from one setting to another.

Consider the plant manager of a manufacturing company who has a history of effective troubleshooting. Over the years he has been assigned to several plants, each with a serious operating problem. After successfully dealing with the difficulties, he has always received an extended vacation, a bonus and an increase in his base salary. He has learned the basic contingencies or requirements of reinforcement for his job. The stimulus is the assignment, the response is correcting problems and the consequences are several positive reinforcers. When the manager gets his next assignment, he will probably generalize from his past experiences even though he will be in a different plant with different problems and employees he will know what is expected of him and understand what it takes to be rewarded.

Stimulus Generalization and Stimulus Discrimination

Stimulus Discrimination in Organizations

Stimulus discrimination is the ability to recognize differences among stimuli. As in stimulus generalization, the person learns the basic stimulus-response-consequence sequence for one stimulus. When confronted with a new stimulus, however, he can discriminate between the two stimuli and respond differently

Assuming that the troubleshooting plant manager is assigned to the plant that is running smoothly. His routine response to new situations has always been to identify and solve problems, but he must now discriminate between his new situation and his earlier ones. He will also recognize that he will need a different set of behaviors, or responses, to meet performance expectations and receive positive reinforcement.

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