The concept of ‘learning’ has been embedded in each and every one of us from the day we were born. Since, the beginning of man, learning has been incorporated into our very nature whether we are conscious of it or not; from learning how to control fire to noticing how that fire provides us with warmth and security to ward of wild animals. Learning as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is ‘the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something’. Over the years, psychologists have come up with different theories on how we learn. Marketers have taken these theories and applied them to gain a better understanding of how consumers learn and behave, in order to develop better marketing strategies to satisfy the needs and wants of consumers. This is commonly known today as consumer behaviour. The rapid increases of millennial consumers over the years have intrigued marketers to further understand and analyse this new breed of consumers. Hence, to understand their behaviours is to understand how they learn and process information.
There are many ways to learn and along with that, many different learning theories. In this research, I will be focusing on three main learning theories related to young adult learning and what are the implications of these theories to marketing.
Learning Theories of Young Adults & How Marketers Apply Them
To analyse how young adults learn, we have to first understand the term ‘young adult’. In actuality, there is no definition to the term; however it is widely used these days to describe an individual who lies within the transition period between the adolescence to adulthood period. The term is also typically used to better categorize this segment of individuals in researches, studies and even marketing. According to Erikson’s Stages of Development, the young adult stage ranges between the ages of 18-35 years (Erikson, 1968). Due to the advancements of this ever-changing society, learning today is not the same as it was 20-30 years ago. The exposure to technology from an early age has altered the way these ‘digital natives’ think and process information compared to previous generations before them (Prensky, 2001). Thus, the recognition of this and implementation of new learning methods is paramount towards understanding how ‘young adults’ learn. Knowledge is perception – Socrates. Learning is no longer just a passive assimilation of knowledge (Piaget, 1968), which is passed down from teacher to student. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. The conventional student-teacher or ‘teach me’ methods of learning can no longer be applied to the young adults of this generation. Instead, the use of a more active learning method such as cognitive learning is more relevant today. Cognitive learning is a ‘theory that defines learning as a behavioural change based on the acquisition of information about the environment’ (Mosby, 2009). There are three main branches of cognitive learning; the iconic rote learning, vicarious learning and reasoning or analogy learning.
Iconic rote learning
The first area of cognitive learning we will be looking at is Iconic rote learning. Iconic rote learning is defined as learning the association between two or more concepts in absence of conditioning (Neal, Quester, Hawkins, 2002). The essence of this concept is repetition, where the intended concept is repeated over again to engage the attention of the intended target. On the surface, this concept might seem similar to that of the classical conditioning method which also involves repetition. However, this concept differs from classical conditioning because of the absence of a stimulus-response mechanism, a direct reinforcement or reward involved. The aim of iconic learning is just to boost the attention and...
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