Two analogue attempts to harness the negative coverant effect

John J. Horan, Randall D. Smyers, Dennis L. Dorfman, William W. Jenkins

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Homme (1965) has suggested that subjects who reinforce lowly probable coverants (covert operants) which are incompatible with certain personal problems (e.g., obesity, smoking, depression) will consequently modify their maladaptive behavior. Thus, if one wanted to lose weight one might attempt to increase the frequency of specific thoughts, images, reflections, etc. which interfere with his overeating habits. In this instance, 'negative' coverants might include images of one's body bulging out of bathing suit or thoughts about an obesity-related coronary attack. Since the operant of looking at a reflected object in a mirror is analogous to the coverant of imagining the object in one's mind, support for the assumption of coverant incompatibility was recently displayed in a study which found almost nonoverlapping distributions of the amount of time obese and properly proportioned individuals are willing to spend in naïve self-observation (Horan, 1974). Thus, negative coverants are in fact lowly probable. Furthermore, they need not be especially horrifying, but simply indicative of the status quo. It remained to be tested, however, whether or not this potentially powerful effect could be harnessed. That is, will the reflected image of one's obese body (or the analogous experience of negative coverants) produce a decrease in the amount of food typically consumed in a given situation?

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)183-184
    Number of pages2
    JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
    Issue number2-3
    StatePublished - Jun 1975

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Clinical Psychology
    • Psychiatry and Mental health


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