- In operant conditioning, when the operant response is not in the organism's repertoire, a procedure in which the experimenter breaks down the response into those parts which appear most frequently, begins reinforcing them, and then slowly and successively withholds the reinforcer until more and more of the operant is emitted.
* * *n.a technique of behaviour modification used in the teaching of complex skills or in encouraging rare forms of behaviour. At first the therapist rewards actions that are similar to the desired behaviour; thereafter the therapist rewards successively closer approximations, until eventually only the desired behaviour is rewarded and thereby learned.
* * *shap·ing (shāpґing) an operant conditioning technique used in behavior therapy in which new behavior is produced by providing reinforcement for progressively closer approximations of the final desired behavior. Called also successive approximation.
Medical dictionary. 2011.