The Motivating Operations Concept: Current Status and Critical Response

Sean Laraway, Susan Snycerski, Ryan Olson, Bernd Becker, Alan Poling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


This paper reviews the current status of the Motivating Operation Concept (MOC), followed by a critical response to Whelan and D. Barnes-Holmes (2010), who argued against the MOC and proposed an alternative analysis of motivation, the Consequence-Valuing Operation (CVO). In this paper, we: (a) review the MOC and discuss its conceptual and empirical status, (b) clarify certain aspects of the MOC, (c) correct Whelan and D. Barnes-Holmes’s inaccurate descriptions of the MOC, and (d) critique the CVO and related concepts. We demonstrate that the MOC is a high-impact innovation in behavior analysis that provides a useful theoretical framework for analyses of operant (instrumental) behavior. In contrast, the case made by Whelan and D. Barnes-Holmes for the competing CVO concept suffers from a range of problems. We, therefore, conclude that the MOC provides a superior and more useful behavioral analysis of motivation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-623
Number of pages23
JournalPsychological Record
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 5 2014


  • Abative effect
  • Abolishing operations
  • Conditioned motivating operations
  • Consequence valuing operations
  • Establishing operations
  • Evocative effect
  • Motivating operations
  • Motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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