Expectancy

Expectancy (E) refers to a person's expectation that some specific reinforcement or set of reinforcements will occur hi a given situation. The probability is not determined by the individual's history of reinforcements, as Skinner contended but is subjectively held by the person. History, of course, is a contributing factor, but so too are unrealistic thinking, expectations based on lack of information, and fantasies, so long as the person sincerely believes that a given reinforcement or group of reinforcements are contingent on a particular response.

Expectancies can be general or specific. Generalized expectancies (GEs) are learned through previous experiences with a particular response or similar responses and are based on the belief that certahi behaviors will be followed by positive reinforcement. For example, college students whose previous hard work lias been reinforced by high grades will have a generalized expectancy of future reward and will work hard hi a variety of academic situations.

Specific expectancies are designated as E' (Eprime). In any situation the expectancy for a particular reinforcement is determined by a combination of a specific expectancy (£") and the generalized expectancy (GE). For example, a student may have general expectancy that a given level of academic work will be rewarded by good grades but may believe that an equal amount of hard work in a French class will go unrewarded.

Total expectancy of success is a function of both one's generalized expectancy and one's specific expectancy. Total expectancy partially determines the amount of effort people will expend in pursuit of their goals. A person with low total expectancy for success hi obtaining a prestigious job is not likely to apply for the position, whereas a person with high expectancy for success will exert much effort and persist hi the face of setbacks to achieve goals that appear possible.

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