Insatiability: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?

Lyle K. Grant



Economic satiation is the idea that once people have attained an adequate level of income and consumption they reach a satiation point at which income and consumer goods become less effective as reinforcers and as sources of satisfaction. Advocates of a sustainable society have seen economic satiation as a natural method for reducing the overconsumption of goods and yielding environmental benefits including a reduction in carbon emissions and lessened demand for nonrenewable resources. Yet cross-cultural data from both developing and developed economies have been unable to fix a satiation point at which the reinforcing effectiveness of income declines. This finding of income insatiability is consistent with the status of money as a powerful generalized reinforcer that is not subject to satiation. A conceptual solution to the problem is to accept and even embrace the insatiability of generalized reinforcers, yet to develop a culture of education and skills that empowers alternative generalized reinforcers to the point at which their effectiveness rivals or exceeds that of income.


insatiability, satiation, satiation point, habituation, sustainability

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Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility