Unconditioned and conditioned establishing operations in organizational behavior management

Ryan Olson, Sean Laraway, John Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The establishing operation (EO) is a behavior-analytic motivational concept that prompts a more comprehensive theoretical understanding of motivation with practical implications. The field of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) has made limited use of the EO concept, but other specialization areas in behavior analysis have developed EO-based treatments. Analogous success in OBM will likely require advances in the use of molecular analyses of behavior, functional analysis technologies, and analyses of verbal behavior. Theoretical and technical progress will also require a better understanding of Michael's (1982; 1993a; 1993b) taxonomy of unconditioned and conditioned EOs. Therefore, this taxonomy is illustrated with empirical research examples and plausible organizational examples at a molecular level of analysis, including the unconditioned effects of activity deprivation and conditioned EOs related to nicotine deprivation, behavior-based safety observations, and intrinsic motivation to learn on the job. A behavioral approach to understanding motivation is practical and empirically approachable, and the class of motivational variables known as EOs will help advance our understanding of workplace motivation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-35
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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