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Operant Conditioning

Operant conitioning / instrumental learning is a mechanism by which behaviors can be strenghtened or weakend over time. This information handout describes the principles of operant conditioning / instrumental learning and how it applies to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Operant Conditioning is a simple description of operant conditioning / instrumental learning and why it is important in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Client difficulties are sometimes the result of positively or negatively reinforced responses, and may respond to a process whereby different reinforcement schedules are used to shape them. Some forms of therapy are more explicit in their deliberate shaping of client behavior.

This is a Psychology Tools information handout. Suggested uses include:

  • Client handout – use as a psychoeducation resource
  • Discussion point – use to provoke a discussion and explore client beliefs
  • Therapist learning tool – improve your familiarity with a psychological construct
  • Teaching resource – use as a learning tool during training
  • Skinner, B. F. (1938). The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis. New York: Appleton-Century.
    Skinner, B. F. (1948). Superstition in the pigeon. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38, 168-172.
    Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. Simon and Schuster.

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