Conditioned Reinforcement

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



John Wiley & Sons, Ltd


Conditioned reinforcers are traditionally assumed to have one essential characteristic: when presented as a consequence immediately following a response, the conditioned reinforcer functions to increase the probability of future responding. This chapter describes a variety of procedures to illustrate both some historical approaches and show the challenges presented in the study of conditioned reinforcement. When the conditioned reinforcer is not presented, learning occurs more slowly. Williams and Dunn's results show that conditioned reinforcers could substitute for primary reinforcers in a discrimination learning task. The chapter discusses the determinants of conditioned reinforcement. One example of a theory that explicitly connects conditioned reinforcement value to Pavlovian contingencies is behavioral momentum theory. The chapter briefly describes three alternatives/supplements to the concept of conditioned reinforcement: marking, bridging, and timing. All of these alternatives focus on the discriminative properties of a stimulus and how it signals distance to primary reinforcement.

Chapter of

The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Operant and Classical Conditioning


K. McSweeney
E. S. Murphy