Jackson (2005; 2008; 2009) designed the Hybrid Model of Learning in Personality which argues that there is a common biological basis to positive and negative outcomes within the workplace, education and the general community. It is termed a hybrid model because it combines biological theories of personality with socio-cognitive and experiential mechanisms of learning (Jackson, Hobman, Jimmieson and Martin, 2009). Jackson argues that Sensation Seeking is an instinctive biological drive which provides the need to explore the environment. Jackson specifically argues that Sensation Seeking is neither positive nor negative.
In Jackson’s model, Sensation Seeking is seen as a relatively primitive drive which needs re-expression by more sophisticated socio-cognitive mechanisms for it to be the basis of functional learning. These socio-cognitive mechanisms are split into the following:
- Mastery – a mastery or learning goal orientation which allocates cognitive resources towards the achievement of difficult goals such that the more cognitive effort we put into a task then the more likely it is that we will succeed.
- Conscientiousness – providing responsibility, planning and perseverance
- Deep Learning – a deep understanding and knowledge about problems and systems thinking as opposed to simply tackling the surface issues
- Rationality – providing rationality and emotionally independent thinking
A simple analogy provides an easy way to understand the Hybrid Model of Learning in Personality. Think of an arrow shooting through the air towards an appropriate target. Hitting a worthwhile and useful target represents functional learning. All other shots (including hitting a poorly chosen target) represent various forms of dysfunctional learning. An important feature of a successful shot is that the arrow will only fly true to its target if:
- It has sufficient momentum (Sensation Seeking drive)
However momentum only provides the necessary, raw, unsophisticated part of achieving archery success. More sophisticated skills re-express the raw energy such that the appropriate target is hit. Successful hitting of the target only occurs if:
- The angle of flight is correct (Mastery)
- The flight of the arrow has been well planned and practised (Conscientiousness)
- The arrow is flying towards a target that has been objectively chosen (Rationallity)
- The arrow has been launched by someone who has put sufficient thought into the process, and who understands the process, such that they can plan for and react to changing circumstances (Deep Learning)
For example, high Sensation Seekers who fail to re-express their drive for curiosity through their socio-cognitive mechanisms might have momentum to be rich. However they will proceed to achieve wealth by means of simple cognitive strategies such as unsophisticated ‘smash and grab’ techniques which are socially unacceptable. In contrast, a high Sensation Seeker, able to re-express their exploratory needs by means of socio-cognitive mechanisms, would set out to achieve this aim by complex and socially acceptable cognitive strategies such as setting up a company, achieving more sales, getting bonuses etc. The complex strategies for success found in entrepreneurs for example are likely to contrast with the deficient strategies present in delinquents. Functional learners are cognitively equipped to use their sensation seeking wisely whereas dysfunctional learners are not.
If a person has the cognitive skills to redirect, control, or delay their Sensation Seeking, then Jackson’s Hybrid Model of Learning argues that the person will be a functional learner and a productive employee. If a person lacks the cognitive skills to control their Sensation Seeking, then the model argues that the person will be a dysfunctional learner who is potentially counter-productive.