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1. in physical medicine, improvement of physical health by a program of exercises; called also physical conditioning.
2. in psychology, a form of learning in which a response is elicited by a neutral stimulus which previously had been repeatedly presented in conjunction with the stimulus that originally elicited the response. Called also classical or respondent conditioning.

The concept had its beginnings in experimental techniques for the study of reflexes. The traditional procedure is based on the work of Ivan P. Pavlov, a Russian physiologist. In this technique the experimental subject is a dog that is harnessed in a sound-shielded room. The neutral stimulus is the sound of a metronome or bell which occurs each time the dog is presented with food, and the response is the production of saliva by the dog. Eventually the sound of the bell or metronome produces salivation, even though the stimulus that originally elicited the response (the food) is no longer presented.

In the technique just described, the conditioned stimulus is the sound of the bell or metronome, and the conditioned response is the salivation that occurs when the sound is heard. The food, which was the original stimulus to salivation, is the unconditioned stimulus and the salivation that occurred when food was presented is the unconditioned response.

Reinforcement is said to take place when the conditioned stimulus is appropriately followed by the unconditioned stimulus. If the unconditioned stimulus is withheld during a series of trials, the procedure is called extinction because the frequency of the conditioned response will gradually decrease when the stimulus producing the response is no longer present. The process of extinction eventually results in a return of the preconditioning level of behavior.
aversive conditioning learning in which punishment or other unpleasant stimulation is used to associate negative feelings with an undesirable response.
classical conditioning conditioning (def. 2).
instrumental conditioning (operant conditioning) learning in which a particular response is elicited by a stimulus because that response produces desirable consequences (reward). It differs from classical conditioning in that the reinforcement takes place only after the subject performs a specific act that has been previously designated. If no unconditioned stimulus is used to bring about this act, the desired behavior is known as an operant. Once the behavior occurs with regularity the behavior may be called a conditioned response.

The traditional example of instrumental conditioning uses the Skinner box, named after B. F. Skinner, an American behavioral psychologist. The subject, a rat, is kept in the box and becomes conditioned to press a bar by being rewarded with food pellets each time its early random movements caused it to press against the bar.

The principles and techniques related to instrumental conditioning are used clinically in behavior therapy to help patients eliminate undesirable behavior and substitute for it newly learned behavior that is more appropriate and acceptable.
physical conditioning conditioning (def. 1).
respondent conditioning conditioning (def. 2).
work conditioning a physical exercise program designed to restore specific strength, flexibility, and endurance for return to work following injury, disease, or medically imposed rest; it may be part of a complete work hardening program when other aspects of functional restoration are required.


In conditioning, any behavior or specific response chosen by the experimenter; its frequency is intended to increase or decrease by the judicious pairing with it of a reinforcer when it occurs.
Synonym(s): target behavior (1) , target response


/op·er·ant/ (op´er-ant) in psychology, any response that is not elicited by specific external stimuli but that recurs at a given rate in a particular set of circumstances.


1. Operating to produce effects; effective.
2. Psychology Of, relating to, or being a response that occurs spontaneously and is identified by its reinforcing or inhibiting effects.
1. One that operates.
2. Psychology An element of operant behavior.

op′er·ant·ly adv.


Etymology: L, operare, to work
any act or response occurring without an identifiable stimulus. The result of the act or response determines whether or not it is repeated.


adjective Referring to responses contingent upon, or influenced by, their impact on the environment or a situation, and/or by the success of those responses in achieving a reward or reinforcement.


Psychology adjective Referring to response(s) contingent upon or influenced by their impact on the environment or a situation, and/or by the ability of response(s) to achieve reward or reinforcement


In conditioning, any behavior or specific response chosen by the experimenter; its frequency is intended to increase or decrease by the judicious pairing with it of a reinforcer when it occurs.
Synonym(s): target response.


see instrumental and operant conditioning.

Patient discussion about operant

Q. I am worried how safe the operation would be and the post surgery complications? My wife has a cyst in her right breast and further tests are going on. Doctors have advised to go for an operation. I am worried how safe the operation would be and the post surgery complications?

A. My friend, surgery for the cyst in breast is common. Any cyst in breast indicates breast cancer. These surgeries are very safe. Initially they used to cut the complete breast to remove the cyst. Now with the advanced technology, only the cyst would be removed without harming other tissues. Rather complete removal is done these days, but that depend upon the severity of the cancer. These surgeries are proven with results. If the cyst is less they will remove only the affected portion and yes they do remove some nearby tissues because there some cancer cells may lay and can arrive again. For any post surgery complications, chemotherapy treatment is also available.

Q. Should I do surgery for varicoceles? I went to an urologist and he recommended surgery, but I don’t know if I should do this…is it dangerous? Can I live with the varicocele?

A. I don’t see your problem, you said an urologist advised you to do so- that should be enough no? if you don’t trust him, go and get a second opinion. The surgery is not that bad, an hour later and you are walking out. Vary small risk of complication. I did it and it was fine.

Q. What types of gastric bypass surgeries are there? I heard all sorts of options for gastric bypass are available. What is the most in use?

A. Bariatric surgeries or – gastric bypass surgeries for weight loss fall into three categories: Restrictive procedures make the stomach smaller to limit the amount of food intake, malabsorptive techniques reduce the amount of intestine that comes in contact with food so that the body absorbs fewer calories, and combination operations employ both restriction and malabsorption. The exact one to be done should be decided with the physician according to each patients abilities and pre-operative function level.

More discussions about operant
References in periodicals archive ?
While conventional autoclitics can be said to alter the effects of other operants such as tacts or mands, music is notable for lacking clear correlates to tacts and mands, which may account for the ubiquity of lyrical prosody as a musical accompaniment enabling tact and mand functions to be exhibited in the context of song.
We could say that adults establish fairly systematic operant programs that end up with the internalization of social speech (Alcaraz, 1990; Mowrer, 1954).
Monitoring and careful analyses are required to determine if "acquired" mands are indeed under the control of MOs, and if the mands have generalized, become spontaneous, are functional in the natural environment, and are appropriately incorporated and emitted along with the other verbal operants in daily verbal discourse.
Consistent with Skinner's suggestion (1957), VB treatment research also has shown that mand training facilitates the training of other verbal operants (Sautter & LeBlanc, 2006).
After initial training was complete, the participants participated in the concurrent operants preference assessment.
Further, since independent speaker behavior is comprised of much more than mand operants, these motivational procedures may not be sufficient for establishing it across mand, tact, and autoclitic functions.
We are interested in the stimulus - (or antecedent) response-consequence operants of mathematics performance.
According to these authors, research on language development in behavior analysis has focused on two aspects: training acquisition procedures related to the verbal operants proposed by Skinner as mands and tacts and the identification and demonstration of reinforcement control over generalized operant classes, such as imitation, grammatical or syntactic responses, the following of instruction, and verbal/nonverbal correspondence.
Skinner (1959) called such verbal operants echoics .
The ability of operants to vary, depending upon moment-to-moment stimulus and contingency changes, can be contrasted with another basic form of learning, Pavlovian conditioning, where highly constrained, species-typical responses are the rule.
It seems to me that when operants are already in the individual's repertoire the fundamental concern is to identify the contingencies that evoke the behaviors--the existing controlling variables for behavior whether we call the behavior "appropriate or bad.
The case in question concerns the distinction between operant and respondent relations and the problem of the unit of selection--two of the most important theoretical problems about behavior (Catania, 1971, 1973; Coleman, 1981; Moxley, 1992; Pear & Eldridge, 1984; Scharff, 1982; Thompson & Zeiler, 1986).