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Aversive Stimuli

  • By: Perry N. Fuchs & John E. McKenna
  • In: Encyclopedia of Educational Psychology
  • Edited by: Neil J. Salkind
  • Subject:School/Educational Psychology (general), Educational Psychology, School Psychology

Aversive stimuli can be defined as any cues or events that produce negative emotional feelings or a negative outcome. Any stimulus can potentially be considered aversive, because it is the production of the undesirable feeling associated with the stimulus that determines whether it is aversive or not. In general terms, the aversive stimulus most often attenuates or eliminates behavior that is paired with that aversive stimulus. As such, aversive stimuli are importantly related to various principles of learning and have major implications for a number of basic and applied research and therapeutic settings.

Aversive stimuli are a key element to escape learning (i.e., the type of learning that is based on negative reinforcement). For instance, animals can learn to escape electric footshock by pressing a bar ...

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