Shaping Behaviour

If the behaviour that a manager wishes to strengthen is already present and occurs with some frequency, then the contingent applications of reinforcers can increase and maintain the desired performance patterns at a high level. However, when new and complex behaviour patterns have to be established, the manager has to use behaviour modification techniques to gradually bring about the desired behaviours in the employee. This process of training employees to engage in new pattern of responses or behaviours by reinforcing a series of successive steps which lead to the desired new behaviours is called the shaping of behaviour. Using the principles of behaviour modification in a well-designed training programme allows the manager to accomplish the shaping of the employee’s behaviour to meet performance standards and levels set by the organization. Shaping behaviour is necessary when the behavioural response to be learned is not currendy in the individual’s repertoire of behaviours and when it is a fairly complex behaviour.

In shaping, a desired pattern of behaviour is learned by reinforcing the series of successive steps which lead to the final set of responses or behaviour. This method is essentially the one driving instructors use to teach individuals to drive a car. The student is first taught how to adjust the seat and mirror, then to fasten the seatbelt, turn on the lights and windshield wipers and then to start the engine. Each time the student successfully completes a set of activities, they are positively reinforced by verbal praise. After reasonable proficiency in manipulating the internal control devices, the student is allowed to practice driving on empty lots and back roads and finally on the main streets and highways. By focusing on these critical aspects one at a time and appropriately reinforcing the proper behavioural responses, the driving instructor is able to shape a student’s driving behaviour until the final stage of passing the driving licence test.

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