Animal Training

Appendix: Glossary

Terms & Definitions

  • continuous reinforcement
    a reinforcement schedule in which a particular response is reinforced each time it occurs
  • discrimination
    the tendency for learned behavior to occur in the presence of stimuli present during training, but not in the presence of stimuli absent during training
  • extinction
    the weakening of a response by withholding the reinforcer that normally follows that response
  • generalization
    the tendency for a learned response to occur in the presence of stimuli that were not present during training
  • intermittent reinforcement
    reinforcement on any of several schedules in which a response is sometimes reinforced
  • learning
    a change in behavior due to experience
  • observational learning
    any procedure in which an organism learns through observation of the behavior of another organism
  • operant learning
    any procedure by which a response becomes more or less likely to occur, depending upon its consequences
  • positive reinforcement
    a reinforcement procedure in which a response is followed by the presentation of, or an increase in the intensity of, a stimulus
  • primary reinforcer
    any stimulus that is normally reinforcing to all or nearly all members of a species (e.g. food and water)
  • reinforcement
    any procedure that increases the probability of a response
  • schedule of reinforcement
    the schedule by which a particular response is reinforced
  • secondary reinforcer
    any stimulus that has acquired its reinforcing properties through association with other reinforcers
  • shaping
    an operant learning procedure in which successive approximations of a desired response are reinforced
  • stimulus
    any event that affects, or is capable of affecting, behavior


  • Chance, Paul. Learning and Behavior. Third edition. Pacific Grove, California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1994.