The Psychology of Learning

Psychology Fresh HR Insights HR Gold Coast Ph 1300  332 322

There is a psychological process used in everyday life known as classical conditioning. In classical conditioning, an object in our environment can lead to a learnt reflex. A Russian psychologist by the name of Pavlov first discovered and came up with classical conditioning with an experiment he used on his dog.

To demonstrate how classical conditioning is used in the workplace these days, think of the lunch time bell or alarm sound. Some factory, warehouse and even some office workers are subjected to having a bell ring or an alarm sound when it is time to take their morning tea and lunch break. Another bell or alarm will sound at the end of the break to signal it is time to get back to work. Whilst employees are probably inducted on this process of breaks when they first commence in a job, some will forget, though not for long.

When a human being (or an animal) is subjected to a sound or object which always follows with an action, the human or animal will soon learn this reflex. Once someone has heard the lunch bell ringing 5 days in a row, they quickly learn that lunch is to follow. They also learn that the second bell means returning to work (even if they pretend they forgot). Forgetting a learned reflex in the same environment with the same bell is hardly an option as the learned reflex becomes unconscious. Therefore, the learned reflex becomes automatic and we are barely aware of what we are doing, all we remember is that the bell signals lunch and returning to work.

This process works in any environment and with any stimulus. If you need a client’s account processed every Thursday at 11am, you could set a chime to go off on the computer every Thursday at 11am. The chime need not be paired with a reminder message, soon enough the chime will be enough to stimulate the memory of what is to follow.


Burton, Lorelle. Psychology – 3rd Australian and New Zealand Edition. John Wiley & Sons Australia

Written by Simone Ortolani ‚ ¨ Fresh HR Insights