Quick Reference

Working for reinforcement (1) even though the identical reinforcement is freely available, as when a rat repeatedly presses a lever for food (earned food) that is available to be taken with less effort from a dish (free food). This phenomenon has been shown to occur in a wide variety of vertebrate species, including fish, birds, gerbils, mice, rats, monkeys, chimpanzees, and human children and adults, a rare and possibly unique exception being the domestic cat Felis domesticus, and it apparently contradicts conventional theories of learning and motivation because, if reinforcement or reward is equated with food eaten, then organisms seem not to be maximizing the reinforcement/effort or reward/cost ratio. [From Latin contra against + US English freeloading obtaining goods or services at someone else's expense]

Subjects: Psychology.

Reference entries