Demand Characteristics Of The Situation See Experimenter Effects

DEMBER-EARL THEORY OF CHOICE/ PREFERENCE. = complexity discrepancy theory = theory of stimulus complexity. The American psychologists William N. Dember (1928- ) and R. W. Earl formulated a theory of choice and preference that concerns the influence of stimulus complexity on organisms' behaviors. The theory holds that every stimulus object has a certain complexity value that is, also, its information value. One assumption behind the theory of choice and preference is that every individual (both human and nonhuman) has its own "ideal level" of complexity, that is, the level of stimulation for which it has a preference. Individuals seek out objects containing their ideal level of complexity, will choose them from among other objects, will work for them, and will learn what needs to be done in order to obtain them. Additionally, individuals will explore objects of a somewhat higher complexity level called "pacer stimuli." As organisms master the new level of complexity of the pacer stimuli, their own ideal level rises, and they are now ready to deal with new pacers and, again, raise their own ideal level. Thus, according to the Dember-Earl theory of choice, the need for stimulus variability in an individual's ex perience provides a basis and reinforcement for increasingly complicated kinds of learning. The results of several experiments confirm the predicted relation between complexity and preference in accordance with the theory of choice and preference, and attest to its generality over a wide range of stimulus materials and types of participants. For an account of choice behavior in a "foraging" and operant conditioning context, see Fantino and Abarca (1985); and for accounts of the preference reversal phenomenon (i.e., the effect in a gambling situation where people who choose gamble A over gamble B often ask for less money to sell A than B) and the expression theory (i.e., a postulate which assumes that the basic evaluation of a gamble is expressed on various scales via a subjective interpolation process), see Goldstein & Einhorn (1987). See also CHOICE THEORIES; DECISION-MAKING THEORIES; EXEMPLAR THEORY OF BEHAVIORAL CHOICE; PERCEPTION (I. GENERAL), THEORIES OF. REFERENCES

Dember, W. N. (1956). Response by the rat to environmental change. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 49, 93-95. Dember, W. N., & Earl, R. W. (1957). Analysis of exploratory, manipulatory, and curiosity behaviors. Psychologi-calReview, 64, 91-96. Dember, W. N., Earl, R. W., & Paradise, N.

(1957). Response by rats to differential stimulus complexity. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 50, 514-518. Hoben, T. (1971). Discrepancy hypotheses: Methodological and theoretical considerations. Psychological Review, 78, 249-259. Coombs, C., & Avrunin, G. (1977). Single-peaked functions and the theory of preference. Psychological Review, 84, 216-230. Fantino, E., & Abarca, N. (1985). Choice, optimal foraging, and the delay-reduction hypothesis. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8, 315-330. Goldstein, W. M., & Einhorn, H. J. (1987).

Expression theory and the prefer ence reversal phenomenon. Psychological Review, 94, 236-254.

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