Maturationdegeneration Hypothesis See Developmental Theory


MAXIMIZATION THEORY. The speculations of maximization theory in behavioral psychology (e.g., Rachlin, Battalio, Kagel, & Green, 1981) - which are borrowed from theoretical notions in the field of economics -provides techniques for predicting the behavior of organisms, including humans as well as animals. Maximization theory posits the construction of a theoretical "behavioral space" in which each point represents a given combination of various behavioral alternatives. For example, with two alternatives - behavior X and behavior Y - each point within the space represents a certain amount of time spent performing behavior X and a certain amount of time spent performing behavior Y. Particular environmental situations may be described as constraints on available points ("circumscribed area") within the space. Maximization theory assumes that organisms always choose the available point having the highest numerical value, and the task of the theory is to assign values to points in the "behavioral space" that remain constant across various environmental situations where, as those situations change, the point actually chosen is always the one having the highest assigned value. The general goal of maximization theory in behavioral psychology is to serve as an alternative to reinforcement theory as a description of "steady-state" behavior, and includes applications to reinforcement situations such as rats pressing levers, and pigeons pecking keys, in Skinner boxes, as well as to human economic behavior assessments and human self-control situations. Inasmuch as maximization theory takes situational/contextual factors into account, it purportedly has greater predictive power than does the traditional, and more molecular, reinforcement theory (cf., the maximum likelihood principle - in the field of statistics, this conjecture refers to the use of any population estimate that serves as the basis for predicting the total parameter; and, in the area of subjective judgments, this speculation refers to making a prediction on the basis of what seems to be the most reasonable estimate under the given circumstances). See also LEWIN'S FIELD THEORY; OPERANT CONDITIONING/BEHAVIOR, LAWS/THEORY OF; REINFORCEMENT THEORY. REFERENCE

Rachlin, H., Battalio, R., Kagel, J., & Green, L. (1981). Maximization theory in behavioral psychology. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 4, 371-417.

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