Behavior Potential

Broadly considered behavior potential (BP) is the possibility that a particular response will occur at a given thne and place. Several behavior potentials of varying strengths exist in any psychological situation. For example, as Megan walks toward a restaurant, she has several behavioral potentials. She might pass by without noticing the restaurant; actively ignore it; stop to eat; think about stopphig to eat, but go on; examine the building and contents with a consideration to purchase it; or stop, go hiside, and rob the cashier. For Megan, in this situation, the potential for some of these behaviors would approach zero, some would be very likely, and others would be hi between these extremes. How can a person predict which behaviors are most or least likely to occur?

The behavior potential in any situation is a function of both expectancy and reinforcement value. If a person wishes to know the likelihood that Megan will rob the cashier rather than purchase the restaurant or stop to eat, for example, we could hold expectancy constant and vary reinforcement value. If each of these behavior potentials carried a 70% expectancy of being reinforced then a person could make a prediction about their relative probability of occurrence based solely on the reinforcement value of each. If holding up the cashier carries a positive reinforcement value greater than orderhig food or buyhig the restaurant, then that behavior lias the greatest occurrence potential.

The second approach to prediction is to hold reinforcement value constant and vary expectancy. If total reinforcements from each possible behavior are of equal value, then the one with the greatest expectation of reinforcement is most likely to occur. More specifically, if reinforcements from robbing the cashier, buyhig the business, and ordering a dinner are all valued equally, then the response that is most likely to produce a reinforcement has the highest behavior potential.

Rotter employs a broad definition of behavior, which refers to any response, implicit or explicit, that can be observed or measured directly or indirectly. This comprehensive concept allows Rotter to include as behavior such hypothetical constructs as generalizing, problem solving, thinking, analyzing, and so forth.

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