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Compliance – A Tension Between Conditioning and Cognition
Jose J. Gonzalez and Agata Sawicka

In most cases it is implicitly assumed that different types of learning align and cooperate. How learning goes off track, because of tensions or conflicts between different learning faculties, is less well studied. Our research concerning security and safety suggests that erosion of compliance with security and safety procedures might be due to superstitious learning – instrumental learning resulting from perceived personal advantages associated with perceived inconsequential breaches of procedures; the unfortunate outcome is diminished risk perception. From the ubiquitousness of erosion of compliance it would seem that higher-order learning is surprisingly inefficient in counteracting the subconscious processes of instrumental conditioning. We apply behavioral regulation theory to develop generic system dynamics models of classroom examples of instrumental conditioning. The models capture essential aspects of the theory and they suggest how desirable learning may be promoted and undesired outcomes restrained during an instrumental conditioning process. We discuss how higher-order learning might shift the behavioral bliss point – the individual’s preferred distribution of activities.

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