Premacks Principlelaw

American psychologist David Premack (1925) offers a reappraisal of the concepts of reinforcement and Thorndike's law of effect that serves to increase the generality of these terms. Premack'sprinciple/law states that any response that occurs with a fairly high frequency may be used to reinforce a response that occurs with a relatively lower frequency. Premack's principle is based on the implicit assumption that the organism's responses/activities that are to be reinforced are neutral and have no intrinsic value. With the counterassumption that an organism engages in a variety of activities that vary in their intrinsic value, Premack ties the reinforcement relation to a preference ranking of the activities where a given activity can be used to reinforce those of lesser value but not those of higher value. Premack proposed that a generally valid index of value for both humans and nonhumans would be response rate in a free-operant situation in which the activity is freely available. Premack presents data from children, monkeys, and rats that suggest his predictions concerning the reinforcing effects of certain behaviors over others are generally accurate. He also demonstrated that it is possible to reverse the reinforcement relation between two activities by altering level of deprivation or motivation. Premack's principle has the merit of being operational, of gen erating novel experiments, and of describing many social behaviors/activities that may be used as reinforcers for humans. However, there have been some criticisms and difficulties with Premack's principle (also called the probability-differential theory of reinforcement and the prepotent response theory). For example, W. Timberlake and J. Allison's response-deprivation theory of reinforcement and W. Timberlake's equilibrium theory of learned performance provide a more general theory to handle all results consistent with Premack's theory as well as consider other results and studies that disconfirm his theory. See also REINFORCEMENT THEORY; REINFOR-CEMENT, THORNDIKE'S THEORY OF; THORNDIKE'S LAW OF EFFECT. REFERENCES

Premack, D. (1959). Toward empirical behavior laws. I. Positive reinforcement. Psychological Review, 66, 219-233. Premack, D. (1962). Reversibility of the reinforcement relation. Science, 136, 255-257.

Premack, D. (1965). Reinforcement theory. In M. Jones (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Timberlake, W., & Allison, J. (1974). Response deprivation: An empirical approach to instrumental performance. Psychological Review, 81, 146-164.

Timberlake, W. (1980). A molar equilibrium theory of learned performance. In G. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation. New York: Academic Press.

PREPOTENCY, LAW OF. See SKINNER'S DESCRIPTIVE BEHAVIOR/OPER-ANT CONDITIONING THEORY.

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