Psychology Learning Resources
Ivan Pavlov and Pavlovian Conditioning

Concept Definition: Backward Conditioning

Important characteristics of Backward Conditioning:

  • US onset precedes CS onset.
  • Less effective than other conditioning procedures.
  • Most likely to occur with particularly aversive CSs.
graph showing that US onset preceeds CS onset over time

Consider the unconditioned reflex whereby an electric shock to the foot elicits (US) elicits foot withdrawal (UR). In Backward Conditioning, a tone (NS) might sound after the foot shock (US) is delivered. Consequently, the tone (CS) may come to elicit foot withdrawal (CR) even in the absence of foot shock. However, should this effect be observed, it is likely to be smaller than had the tone sounded before the foot shock.