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Definition: A type of behaviour therapy that involves modifying behaviour by associating an undesirable behaviour with an aversive stimulus. Background: The idea behind this type of therapy is that one wants to alleviate the temptation of a particular stimulus that results in unwanted behaviour. The punishment involves either removing a positive reinforcer or presenting an aversive stimulus following the undesired behaviour. The most commonly used type of aversive stimulus is electric shock, although its use has declined in recent years. Certain types of drugs with aversive effects (e.g. nausea/vomiting) are also used (e.g. with alcohol). Positive reinforcement of behaviours that are incompatible with the undesired behaviour is being used more often today. Aversion therapy has been used in treatment of a variety of behaviours, including smoking, drinking, overeating, dependence on drugs, and gambling. Further Reading:
Cannon, D. S., Baker, T. B., & Wehl, C. K. (1981). Emetic and electric shock alcohol aversion therapy: six- and twelve- month follow-up. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 49, 360-368.
Kantorovich, F. (1930). An attempt at associative reflex therapy in alcoholism. Psychological Abstracts., 4282.
Wolpe, J. (1990). The practice of behavior therapy. Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.
Related Terms: Behaviour therapies
Self-Instructional Resources: Take a 2-item self-test over this concept.
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