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Behavioral Inhibition

  1. Douglas A. Williams

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0119

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Williams, D. A. 2010. Behavioral Inhibition. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of Winnipeg

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The term behavioral inhibition was introduced into learning theory by the 1904 Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine, Ivan Pavlov (1927). Pavlov turned his attention to studies of salivary conditioning after completing his prize-winning research examining neural regulation of the circulatory organs. He found that an initially neutral conditioned stimulus (CS), such as the sound of a metronome, could acquire significance if it reliably signaled the delivery (excitatory conditioning) or omission (inhibitory conditioning) of a biologically relevant unconditioned stimulus (US), such as meat powder. Excitatory conditioning allowed a hungry dog to prepare for the US in advance of its arrival, supporting the development of a conditioned response (CR). Inhibitory conditioning permitted a learned CR to be suppressed on trials in which the otherwise expected US was omitted in the presence of another CS, such as a light.


  • classical conditioning;
  • inhibitory conditioning;
  • associative learning;
  • reinforcement;
  • extinction