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Operant Conditioning

  1. David C. Palmer

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0623

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Palmer, D. C. 2010. Operant Conditioning. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Smith College

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Operant conditioning, a term coined by B. F. Skinner (1937), has several shades of meaning. It is both an experimental procedure and a behavioral process. In the latter sense, it is a biological adaptation with a plausible evolutionary interpretation and can be observed in the environment-behavior relations of any species with a complex nervous system. The study of operant conditioning and related phenomena comprises a substantial research paradigm within psychology in both laboratory and applied settings. This paradigm endorses tightly controlled experiments to discover behavioral principles; the direct extension of those principles to behavior therapy, education, organizational behavior, and other applications; and the use of the principles as interpretive tools for understanding complex human behavior such as language, memory, and problem solving.


  • applied behavior analysis;
  • behavior analysis;
  • classical conditioning;
  • operant behavior;
  • reinforcement schedules