Learned Behavior in Marketing: Definition, Types & Examples

Instructor: Wendy Stewart

Wendy teaches college courses in Business, has a master's degree in Business Administration, and has completed all coursework for a Doctorate of Business Administration

Learned behavior in marketing is a change of behavior following an interaction between a consumer and their environment. Learn more about the importance of learned behavior in marketing, see some examples, and test your new knowledge with a quiz.

Defining Learned Behavior

Ouch! You just touched a hot stove and accidentally burned your fingers. Will you try touching it again? Probably not. Because of the interaction between your fingers and the hot stove, you have learned, very painfully, not to touch the hot stove again.

Consumers learn in a similar way. Consumer behavior is mostly 'learned behavior.' Learning is defined as a change of behavior following an interaction between a person and their environment. Most behaviors, attitudes, preferences, values, feelings, and symbolic meanings are acquired through learning. We learn through the processes of attention and understanding:

  • Attention: The consumer's attention is gained through processing the stimulus
  • Understanding: The consumer interprets the information and acts upon it

Attention and Understanding

Have you ever seen a new product that caught your attention? Let's say you were strolling through the mall and saw some mannequins in a store window wearing electroluminescent shirts that light up and flash to the beat of music. You want to be the first of your friends to have one, so you run into the store and buy one of the shirts.

On the other hand, you could have thought the shirts were tacky and simply kept walking. Or maybe you were interested enough to stop and search the Internet on your phone for some more information. You could have also decided to table buying a shirt right now, but think about buying one at a future date.

Your attention was gained by the stimulus of the electroluminescent shirts. You sought understanding by interpreting the information and acting upon it by purchasing one of the shirts. You could have also responded by dismissing the information, seeking more information, or making a mental note to remember it in the future.


Through the mall experience, you were 'exposed' to the product. Exposure is becoming aware of a product or service through at least one of the fives senses: seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, or hearing. When you walked into the mall, the process of learning began. You might have smelled cinnamon rolls cooking in the food court. You may have tried a free sample of a new lotion. You could have heard an interesting song playing from one of the stores.

Operant Learning

Operant learning involves a behavior leading to consequences that cause the likelihood of the behavior to increase or decrease. One form of operant learning is positive reinforcement. Marketers tend to use positive reinforcement to sell their products or services.

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