Antecedent (behavioral psychology)

An antecedent is a stimulus that cues an organism to perform a learned behavior. When an organism perceives an antecedent stimulus, it behaves in a way that maximizes reinforcing consequences and minimizes punishing consequences. This might be part of complex, interpersonal communication.

Antecedent stimuli (paired with reinforcing consequences) activate centers of the brain involved in motivation,[1] while antecedent stimuli that have been paired with punishing consequences activate brain centers involved in fear.[2] Antecedents play a different role while attempting to trigger positive and negative outcomes. [3]


  1. Yin, Henry H., Sean B. Ostlund, and Bernard W. Balleine. "Reward-guided learning beyond dopamine in the nucleus accumbens: the integrative functions of cortico-basal ganglia networks." European Journal of Neuroscience 28.8 (2008): 1437–1448.
  2. Killcross, S., Robbins, T. W., & Everitt, B. J. (1997). Different types of fear-conditioned behaviour mediated by separate nuclei within amygdala. Nature, 388(6640), 377-380.
  3. Understanding The Antecedent Behavior Consequence Model [1]



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