Theoretical Aspects of Biofeedback

  • Aubrey J. Yates


When the biofeedback research worker or clinician conducts an experiment or carries out treatment using biofeedback displays, it is commonly observed by the experimenter or clinician that he is unable to provide the subject or patient with precise instructions as to how control may be achieved over the function that is being studied. Following the completion of the experiment or treatment, and assuming some success in obtaining control over the function, it is equally commonly observed by the subjects or patients that they are unable to describe what they did to achieve control. The inability on the part of the experimenter or clinician to instruct the subject or patient how to achieve control, and the inability of the subject or patient to tell the experimenter or clinician how control was achieved appear to have caused a great deal of concern. It is the primary intent of this chapter to show that the concern is misplaced and based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of biofeedback and the purpose of biofeedback training. As a consequence, a good deal of inappropriate research has been carried out in a vain and unnecessary search for certain presumed “mediators” of biofeedback control. It is not, of course, being asserted that mediation does not occur in biofeedback; what is being asserted is that the mediation which occurs is quite other than that which it is commonly assumed to be and that it is not in the least surprising or a matter for concern that subjects and patients are unable to “explain” their success when they achieve it. Indeed, in terms of the theoretical position to be developed here, it would be neither expected nor desirable that increased control following biofeedback training will be accompanied by an “understanding” of how the increased control was achieved.


Conditioned Stimulus Voluntary Control Psychosomatic Medicine Auditory Feedback Relaxation Training 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aubrey J. Yates
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of Western AustraliaNedlandsWestern Australia

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