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Reinforcement Value


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  • Reinforcement is another name for the outcomes of our behavior.

    Reinforcement value refers to the desirability of these outcomes.

    Things we want to happen, that we are attracted to, have a high reinforcement value.

    Things we don't want to happen, that we wish to avoid, have a low reinforcement value.

    If the likelihood of achieving reinforcement is the same, we will exhibit the behavior with the greatest reinforcement value (i.e., the one directed toward the outcome we prefer most).

    As with expectancy, reinforcement value is subjective, meaning that the same event or experience can vastly differ in desirability, depending on the individual's life experience.

    Punishment from a parent would be negatively reinforcing to most children, and something to be avoided. However, children who get little positive attention from parents can seek out parental punishment because it has a higher reinforcement value than neglect.

    The least amount of reinforcement that still has a positive value is known as the minimal goal. If people achieve an outcome that equals or exceeds their minimal goal, they will feel that they have succeeded. When the level of reinforcement falls below an individual's minimal goal, that reinforcement feels like failure.

    People differ in their minimal goals. Thus, the same outcome may represent success to one person (with a lower minimal goal) while it feels like failure to another person (with a higher minimal goal).

    January 3, 2010