Skip to main content


  • Living reference work entry
  • First Online:
Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior
  • 119 Accesses

Counterconditioning occurs when a response to a stimulus is modified by pairing that stimulus with another stimulus of an opposite emotional significance (Richardson et al. 1987). This occurrence results as an alternative conditioned response to the original stimulus (Lane 2009; Pearce and Dickinson 1975; Richardson et al. 1987). Counterconditioning can involve two distinct scenarios: (a) a previously appetitive response can become aversive (i.e., appetitive-to-aversive counterconditioning) or (b) a previously aversive response can become appetitive (i.e., aversive-to-appetitive counterconditioning). Counterconditioning consists of Pavlovian conditioning in which a previously neutral stimulus (NS) is paired with an unconditioned stimulus (US) to produce a conditioned response (CR). The NS becomes a conditioned stimulus after repeated pairings with the US. Counterconditioning successfully occurs when the original conditioned or unconditioned response is modified by replacing a cue from...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Institutional subscriptions


  • Acton, A. (2012). Issues in animal science and research. Atlanta: Scholarly Editions.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bouton, M. E., & Peck, C. A. (1989). Context effects on conditioning, extinction, and reinstatement in an appetitive conditioning preparation. Animal Learning and Behavior, 17, 188–198.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bouton, M. E., & Peck, C. A. (1992). Spontaneous recovery in cross-motivational transfer (counterconditioning). Animal Learning and Behavior, 20, 313–321.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bromage, B. K., & Scavio, M. J. (1978). Effects of an aversive CS+ and CS− under deprivation upon successive classical appetitive and aversive conditioning. Animal Leaning and Behavior, 6, 57–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clay, A. W., Bloomsmith, M. A., Marr, M. J., & Maple, T. L. (2009). Habituation and desensitization as methods for reducing fearful behavior in singly housed rhesus macaques. American Journal of Primatology, 71, 30–39.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Davidson, G. C. (1968). Systematic desensitization as a counterconditioning process. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 73, 91–99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Estes, W. K. (1969). Outline of a theory of punishment. In B. A. Campbell & R. M. Church (Eds.), Punishment and aversive behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goldstein, A. J. (1969). Separate effects of extinction, counterconditioning and progressive approach in overcoming fear. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 7, 47–56.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gray, J. A. (1971). The psychology of fear and stress. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klein, B. (1969). Counterconditioning and fear reduction in the rat. Psychonomic Science, 17, 150–151.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Krank, M. D. (1985). Asymmetrical effects of Pavlovian excitatory and inhibitory aversive transfer on Pavlovian appetitive responding and acquisition. Learning and Motivation, 16, 35–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lane, J. R. (2009). The neurochemistry of counterconditioning: Acupressure desensitization in psychotherapy. Energy Psychology, 1, 14.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miltenberger, R. G. (2012). Behavior modification: Principles and procedures. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned reflexes. London: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pearce, J. M., & Dickinson, A. (1975). Pavlovian counterconditioning: Changing the suppressive properties of shock by association with food. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 1, 170–177.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Peck, C. A., & Bouton, M. E. (1990). Context and performance in aversive-to-appetitive and appetitive-to-aversive transfer. Learning and Motivation, 21, 1–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Richardson, R., Riccio, D. C., & Smoller, D. (1987). Counterconditioning of memory in rats. Animal Learning and Behavior, 15, 321–326.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scavio, M. J. (1974). Classical–classical transfer: Effects of prior aversive conditioning upon appetitive conditioning in rabbits. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 86, 107–115.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wolpe, J. (1968). Psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition (p. 1958). Palo Alto: Stanford University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yin, S. A. (2009). Low stress handling, restraint and behavior modification of dogs and cats. Davis: Cattle Dog Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Prescilla John .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Section Editor information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2018 Springer International Publishing AG

About this entry

Cite this entry

John, P. (2018). Counterconditioning. In: Vonk, J., Shackelford, T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-47829-6

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-47829-6

  • eBook Packages: Springer Reference Behavioral Science and PsychologyReference Module Humanities and Social SciencesReference Module Business, Economics and Social Sciences

Publish with us

Policies and ethics