The metaphor of reinforcement plays a central role in how behaviorists view psychology. The response strengthening effects of reinforcement conveyed by this metaphor provide the foundation upon which the law of effect is constructed. Like previous quantitative theories of operant behavior, behavioral momentum theory has provided a formalized approach for characterizing how reinforcement affects response strength and has been suggested as a quantitative version of the law of effect. Based on research findings on behavioral momentum and on other evidence, the presentation will explore an alternative account of behavior based on information theory that dispenses with the notion of response strength. The presentation also will explore how such an information-based account might be reconciled with and integrated with the fact that reinforcers do seem to invigorate behavior. Finally, the presenter will argue that such an information-based account is at least as grounded in natural science as a traditional behavioral approach.
Review Timothy A. Shahan’s biographical statement.