Orientations to the world, according to expectations and evaluations

History and Orientation

Expectancy value theory is directly linked to uses and gratifications theory. The theory was founded by Martin Fishbein in the 1970s.

Core Assumptions and Statements

Core: According to expectancy-value theory, behavior is a function of the expectancies one has and the value of the goal toward which one is working. Such an approach predicts that, when more than one behavior is possible, the behavior chosen will be the one with the largest combination of expected success and value. Expectancy-value theories hold that people are goal-oriented beings. The behaviors they perform in response to their beliefs and values are undertaken to achieve some end. However, although expectancy-value theory can be used to explain central concepts in uses and gratifications research, there are other factors that influence the process. For example the social and psychological origins of needs, which give rise to motives for behavior, which may be guided by beliefs, values, and social circumstances into seeking various gratifications through media consumption and other nonmedia behaviors.

Statements: Expectancy value theory suggests that “people orient themselves to the world according to their expectations (beliefs) and evaluations”. Utilizing this approach, behavior, behavioral intentions, or attitudes are seen as a function of “(1) expectancy (or belief) – the perceived probability that an object possesses a particular attribute or that a behavior will have a particular consequence; and (2) evaluation – the degree of affect, positive or negative, toward an attribute or behavioral outcome” (Palmgreen, 1984).

Conceptual Model


Expectancy value model

Source: Palmgreen (1984)

Favorite Methods

Experiments (field and laboratory), and questionnaires (attitude/value rating scales).

Scope and Application

Expectancy-value theory has proved useful in the explanation of social behaviors, achievement motivation, and work motivation.

Elaborated expectation-value theories:

  • Expectancy-value model of achievement motivation
  • Behavioral decision theory or subjective expected utility (S.E.U.) theory is one of the most fully developed of the expectancy-value formulations
  • Fishbein's theory of reasoned action or behavioral intentions is another widely accepted and well-developed expectancy-value theory.
  • Rotter's social learning theory.


The combination of beliefs and evaluations developed about a program, a program genre, the content, or a specific medium could be either positive or negative. If positive, it is likely that the individual would continue to use that media choice; if negative, then one would avoid it.


Key publications

  • Fishbein, M (1967). Attitude and the prediction of behaviour. In: Fishbein, M (Ed.). Readings in attitude theory and measurement. New York: Wiley.
  • Fishbein, M (1968). An investigation of relationships between beliefs about an object and the attitude towards that object. Human Relationships, 16, 233-240.
  • Fishbein, M & Ajzen, I. (1974). Attitudes towards objects as predictors of single and multiple behavioural criteria. Psychological Review, 81(1), 29-74.
  • Fishbein, M & Ajzen, I. (1972). Beliefs, attitudes, intentions and behaviour: an introduction to theory and research. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.
  • Fishbein, M & Raven, B.H. (1962). The AB scales: an operational definition of belief and attitude. Human Relations, 12, 32-44.
  • Palmgreen, P. (1984). Uses and gratifications: A theoretical perspective. In: Bostrom, R.N. (Ed.), Communication Yearbook 8 (61-72). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

See also: Uses and Gratifications Theory
See also Interpersonal Communication and Relations, Public Relations, Advertising, Marketing and Consumer Behavior