What is the Law of Effect? Can the Law of Effect be used to explain behavior? If so, how? If not, why not?

Edward Thorndike’s Law of Effect is a commonly applied principle in psychology used to explain learning and behavior. The law explains that if a person receives a positive response to particular stimuli in a situation will most likely because the same positive effect when the situation occurs again. The opposite is also true. The law can also be used to explain animal behavior.

The Law of Effect is useful in understanding how people learn and it is often related to operant learning and to B F Skinner’s theory. Skinner explained the phenomena as it relates to a particular reinforce or stimuli. He explained that if a reinforcer followed a particular response, the response would likely occur again given that particular reinforcer.

This is important to learning because simply put, it means that behaviors will continue if there is a positive outcome. Behaviors will discontinue if the consequences are negative. This is well understood by those who teach and is often used to curb behavior and improve child’s attention at school. The principal is often used with much success with children who have behavioral problems. In this example, the teacher rewards a child for good behavior and may ignore or punish a child for bead behavior.

If a child completes an assignment, he or she gets a star. If the child interrupts during class, he or she is sent to a time out area. The plan is that in the future the child will complete the assignment in order to get the star. If the star were given for interrupting class, the consequences would likely be chaos as all of the students observed this result and acted out in order to get the star.

This law does not always explain behavior however, as human behavior in more complex than simple reinforcers. People also have different views on positive reinforcement. While this law may explain simple, basic behavior, it does not answer all of the questions regarding how people learn or why people behave in ways that bring them negative responses. What is homeostasis? How does homeostasis affect the human body? How does this relate to motivation?

Homeostasis is understood as a degree of equilibrium. It is where we strive to be, in terms of our physical being.  Homeostasis can also be applied to emotions. Humans generally have a point where they feel comfortable, in terms of physical and emotional assessment. It is the point where we have adequate food, water, nutrition, rest, stress etc. Homeostasis is the constant read on our being. To be comfortable, we try to main homeostasis through what is called homeostatic mechanisms.

Motivation is the process that gets humans up and going, working towards a particular goal. The goals can be short term or long term, major or minor. We may be motivated to quench our thirst, so we get a drink. Motivation to buy a house requires many steps including education, job and saving. We are motivated by what we need and by what we want. Looking a Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs, one can understand that the basic needs must be met first. For example, we need to eat so we are motivated to go to the refrigerator, to cook or maybe even to hunt and gather. Fulfilling the basic need of food starts the day. We need to maintain  basic homeostasis in terms of sleep, nutrition, health, bodily functions and a degree of physical comfort before we move on to more complex needs and motivational factors.

, and this motivation can be affected by personality. Equity theory provides an alternative explanation of work motivation.