Stimuli inevitably generated by behavior that avoids electric shock are inherently reinforcing

J Exp Anal Behav. 2001 May;75(3):311-33. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2001.75-311.


A molecular analysis based on the termination of stimuli that are positively correlated with shock and the production of stimuli that are negatively correlated with shock provides a parsimonious count for both traditional discrete-trial avoidance behavior and the data derived from more recent free-operant procedures. The necessary stimuli are provided by the intrinsic feedback generated by the subject's behavior, in addition to those presented by the experimenter. Moreover, all data compatible with the molar principle of shock-frequency reduction as reinforcement are also compatible with a delay-of-shock gradient, but some data compatible with the delay gradient are not compatible with frequency reduction. The delay gradient corresponds to functions relating magnitude of behavioral effect to the time between conditional and unconditional stimuli, the time between conditioned and primary reinforcers, and the time between responses and positive reinforcers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior*
  • Avoidance Learning*
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Electroshock
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Reinforcement Schedule*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology