Talk the Talk: Satiation vs. Deprivation

Talk the Talk: Satiation vs. Deprivation

Satiation and deprivation are key elements to the shaping of any behavior. If a person is in a state of satiation, they have little to no motivation to gain access to a particular item or activity. If they are in a state of deprivation, that motivation increases and we’re more likely to see them engage in behaviors that would gain them access to that item. Keep reading, and we’ll dig into each term a bit more! 


Satiation (the opposite of deprivation) 


Technical Definition: A reduction in the reinforcing effects of a stimulus after repeated presentations or prolonged periods of continued access. A learned behavior is less likely to occur if satiation for its reinforcer has occurred.  


To Put it Simply: Satiation occurs when a person has been exposed to a reinforcer continuously until the item or activity loses its motivating effect on their behavior. The value of that specific item or activity is decreased and the individual will be less likely to perform a target behavior gain access to that consequence. 



  1. Your child just played her favorite video game for a couple of hours. She turns it off and doesn’t want to play again until the next day.
  2. You just got home from a party. You now want some time away from friends and socializing for a bit, as you have seemed to hit your socializing limit for the day. 
  3. You have a bunch of leftover birthday cake, so you eat a slice (or two 😉) each day. When someone brings donuts to your office meeting, you easily turn it down because you’ve eaten cake every other day this week. 

Non-examples (scenarios that are NOT examples of satiation):

  1. Your child just played video games for a couple hours and shut it off to eat lunch. As soon as lunch was done, she went right back to playing her game. 
  2. You went to a party and when it was over, you still wanted to hang out with your friends more, so you scheduled a lunch date for the next day.  
  3. You’ve got an insatiable sweet tooth! You ate leftover birthday cake every day the past week and still said yes to the donuts in your morning meeting. 


Deprivation (the opposite of satiation) 


Technical Definition: An increase in the reinforcing effects of a stimulus after prolonged periods without access. Learned behavior is more likely to occur if a person has not accessed its reinforcer recently. 


To Put it Simply: Deprivation occurs when an individual has been without a desired item or activity for an extended period of time. The value of that item or activity increases to the individual due to the lack of exposure. This will increase the likelihood that the individual will perform target behaviors to earn the desired item or activity. 



  1. You’ve been limiting the number of sweets you’ve been eating over the past couple weeks, so when someone brings in donuts to your morning meeting, you can’t help but snag one! 
  2. It’s been nearly a year since you last hung out with friends thanks to social distancing. Now that restrictions are being lifted, you’re super excited to get together and see your friends. 
  3. You forgot your water bottle at home and it’s been a few hours since you last drank anything. When someone offers you an iced tea, you can’t drink it fast enough! 


Non-examples (scenarios that are NOT examples of deprivation):

  1. You’ve never really been a sweets person. When someone offers you a dessert, even though you haven’t had one in a while, you have no interest in it. 
  2. You live with your best friend and spend a lot of time together. When the weekend comes, he asks you if you want to go see a movie together, but you decline so you can get some time alone. 
  3. You just finished a large glass of iced tea. When someone offers you a glass of water, you turn it down and don’t drink any more.