Learning Theories

6 Key Terms and Concepts

Associative learning: An aspect of behavioural learning theory involving the repetitive pairing of stimuli over time in order to form a strong connection (association) between two items.

Behavioural learning theories: Learning theories that focus on how people respond to external events or stimuli.

Classical conditioning (Pavlovian conditioning): A type of behavioural learning theory developed by Ivan Pavlov that explains how our responses (behaviour) to one situation can inform our response (behaviour) to a new situation.

Cognitive biases: Described as errors in memory or judgement and often an inaccurate perception of something.

Cognitive learning theories: Learning theories that focus on how people learn from mental processes and by observing others.

Encoding: Describes the process of converting our experiences into memories.

Family branding: A branding structure in which the brand focus is on the company name which appears on all the products (services) offered by that company. The association between products and corporate entity are strong and visible.

Licensing: A branding strategy that involves the licensing of a brand name (to other companies) outside of its own product offering in order to bring more exposure to the brand.

Long-term memory: The “LTM” is a system that enables us to store information for a longer period of time.

Memory decay: The fading of memories over the passage of time.

Modeling: Related to observational learning (cognitive learning theory), modeling involves imitating the behaviour of others.

Nostalgia: An emotion that describes a longing for the past and often a romanticized version of what the past was actually like.

Observational learning: Related to cognitive learning, this type of learning occurs when people observe the behaviour, responses, and actions of others.

Operant/Instrumental conditioning: A type of behavioural learning theory that involves reinforcements.

Positive/Negative reinforcement: Related to operant (instrumental) conditioning, positive reinforcement involves providing rewards to encourage a particular type of behaviour. Negative reinforcement involves removing something in order to encourage a particular type of behaviour or action.

Product line extensions: A branding and product strategy that occurs when marketers add new products to an existing brand in order to capitalize on the positive and popular brand equity already established within the market place.

Retrieval: The process of recalling or reactivating memories that have been stored away.

Salience: Items that have salience are those that we deem attractive and worthy of our attention.

Schemas: Also referred to as “mental categories” and patterns of knowledge, schemas provide meaning and structure to the information stored in our memories.

Semantic meaning: A term used to describe symbolic associations between two objects.

Sensory memory: Temporary storage of information that we receive from our senses (ears, nose, eyes, tongue, body).

Short-term memory: Also known as “working memory”, the “STM” stores small “chunks” of information for only a limited amount of time and has a limited capacity.

Sleeper effect: A situation in which over time, people develop a changed attitude towards an object, without knowing the original source of the information that might have triggered the start of the change.

Social models: These are people who might be considered of higher status or authority compared to the person observing them.

Source monitoring: A term used to describe the ability to accurately recall the source of a memory.

Stimulus discrimination: The opposite of stimulus generalization, this concept explains how we respond different to stimuli that may be similar, but not identical.

Stimulus generalization: A term used to describe when people respond to stimuli in a certain way because it reminds them of the original stimulus. In marketing, it is the strategy behind the creation of copy-cat and look-alike brands.


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Introduction to Consumer Behaviour Copyright © by Andrea Niosi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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