Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman

Operant Conditioning

  • Misato TakadaEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_418-2



A type of learning in which the probability of a behavior recurring is increased or decreased by the consequences that follow upon occurrence of the behavior. The three-term contingency represents the simplest conceptual model of operant conditioning (Holland and Skinner 1961).


Operant conditioning applies many techniques and procedures first investigated by E. L. Thorndike (1898), but was later refined and extended by B. F. Skinner (1938). Although operant conditioning is built on the classical conditioning work of Ivan Pavlov (1927), it is distinguished from classical conditioning in that operant conditioning deals with the modification of “voluntary” (operant) behavior. The operant is behavior that acts on the environment to produce a consequence, which is meted out by the environment in response to the operant. This response encourages the operant to either repeat or cease the behavior. Operant conditioning techniques are...

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References and Further Reading

  1. Holland, J. G., & Skinner, B. F. (1961). The analysis of behavior: A program for self-instruction. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  2. Mazur, J. E. (2006). Learning and behavior (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  3. Mednick, S. A., Higgins, J., & Kirschenbaum, J. (1975). Psychology: Explorations in behavior and experience. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned reflexes: An investigation of the physiological activity of the cerebral cortex. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Reynolds, G. S. (1975). A primer of operant conditioning (Rev. ed.). Glenview: Scott Foresman.Google Scholar
  6. Robbins, S. J., Schwartz, B., & Wasserman, E. A. (2001). Psychology of learning and behavior (5th ed.). New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  7. Skinner, B. F. (1938). The behavior of organisms: An experimental analysis. New York: Appleton-Century.Google Scholar
  8. Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  9. Thorndike, E. L. (1898). Animal intelligence: An experimental study of the associative processes in animals (Psychological review monograph supplement, Vol. 2, No. 4, Whole No. 8). Lancaster: Macmillan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Socio-Economics, Faculty of EconomicsDaito Bunka UniversityHigashimatsuyama-shi, SaitamaJapan

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kazuhiro Yoshiuchi
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of TokyoDepartment of Stress Sciences & Psychosomatic Medicine, Graduate School of MedicineBunkyo-kuJapan