Reinforcement Value

Another variable in the prediction formula is reinforcement value (RV), which is the preference a person attaches to any reinforcement when the probabilities for the occurrence of a number of different reinforcements are all equal.

Reinforcement value can be illustrated by a woman's interactions with a vending machine that contains several possible selections, each costing the same. The woman approaches the machine able and willing to pay 75 cents in order to receive a snack. The vending machine is hi perfect workhig condition, so there is a 100% probability that the woman's response will be followed by some sort of reinforcement. Her expectancy of reinforcement, therefore, for the candy bar, corn chips, potato chips, popcorn, tortilla chips, and Danish pastry are all equal. Her response—

that is, which button she presses—is determined by the reinforcement value of each snack.

When expectancies and situational variables are held constant, behavior is shaped by one's preference for the possible reinforcements, that is, reinforcement value. In most situations, of course, expectancies are seldom equal, and prediction is difficult because both expectancy and reinforcement value

can vary.

What determines the reinforcement value for any event, condition,

People do not behave in a vacuum but respond to cues in their or action? First, the Uldi-

perceived environment. vidual's perception con tributes to the positive or negative value of an event. Rotter calls this perception internal reinforcement and distinguishes it from external reinforcement, which refers to events, conditions, or actions on which one's society or culture places a value. Internal and external reinforcements may be either in harmony or at a variance with one another. For example, if you like popular movies—that is, the same ones that most other people like— then your internal and external reinforcements for attending these types of movies are in agreement. However, if your taste in movies runs contrary to that of your friends, then your internal and external reinforcements are discrepant.

Another contributor to reinforcement value is one's needs. Generally, a specific reinforcement tends to mcrease in value as the need it satisfies becomes stronger. A starving child places a higher value on a bowl of soup than does a moderately hungry one. (This issue is more fully discussed later in this chapter in the section titled Needs.)

Reinforcements are also valued according to their expected consequences for future reinforcements. Rotter believes that people are capable of using cognition to anticipate a sequence of events leading to some future goal and that the ultimate goal contributes to the reinforcement value of each event hi the sequence. Reinforcements seldom occur independently of future related reinforcements but are likely to appear in reinforcement-reinforcement sequences, which Rotter (1982) refers to as clusters of reinforcement.

Humans are goal oriented; they anticipate achieving a goal if they behave in a particular way. Other things being equal, goals with the highest reinforcement value are most desirable. Desire alone, however, is not sufficient to predict behavior. The potential for any behavior is a function of both expectancy and reinforcement value as well as the psychological situation.

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