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Avoidance Learning

  1. James K. Luiselli

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0104

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Luiselli, J. K. 2010. Avoidance Learning. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. May Institute, Randolph, MA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Avoidance learning occurs when an individual's behavior prevents exposure to an unpleasant consequence. This arrangement, or contingency, is pervasive in everyday life. For example, in writing a mortgage check each month, the homeowner does so not because this behavior is immediately pleasurable, but rather because it avoids conflict with, and possible foreclosure by, a financial lender. Or, consider the motorist who is traveling above the speed limit posted on a highway. On seeing the blinking light of a police vehicle ahead, the driver slows down to avoid a negative encounter with law enforcement. It might be said, in fact, that learning by avoidance is what motivates most people, most of the time.


  • negative reinforcement;
  • behavior therapy;
  • conditioning theory