Definition: Aversive conditioning involves presenting individuals with an attractive stimulus paired with unpleasant (aversive) stimulation in order to condition revulsion.

Quite Simply...

  • To stop a behavior that is usually bad for them by associating it with something negative.
  • A technique for breaking habits by making the habits no longer seem attractive to the person.
  • A way of breaking habits by creating an association between the attractive stimulus and an aversive stimulus.

Examples of Aversion Therapy

  • If you coat someone's fingernails with a substance that will produce a bad taste when they go to bite their nails, they will eventually associate nail-biting with the bad taste and ultimately drop the habit.
  • If someone is an alcoholic, have them drink and every time they take a sip or order a drink, produce and unfavorable stimuli. It can be a smell, pain, or a taste. This will make them not want to drink anymore .
  • When you buy an invisible fence, your dog will get shocked by the collar every time it tries to leave the yard. Eventually the dog will realize that the end of the yard is going to shock it, and will no longer try.
  • This therapy can be used to get someone to quit smoking by having a foul odor (unconditioned stimulus) blown into your face while smoking resulting in nausea (unconditioned response). Your brain would eventually associate smoking with nausea (conditioned response) and cigarette smoke would become the conditioned stimulus.


  • This is used a last resort after everything else doesn't work.
  • Associating the behavior with something unpleasant is very effective.


  • Typically, this form of therapy involves painful and unpleasant stimulus.
  • There is the potential for this to be almost as bad as torture.
  • This takes a longer time to see the desired results.
  • Can be inhumane and unethical.

See Also...