Successive Approximations Definition | Psychology

A successive approximation is when a subject is being trained to perform a specific task or response, and every step it gets closer to completing that desired response is a successive approximation. Because shaping involves the slow calibrated adjustments and coercion for a subject to eventually perform the desired response, each attempt is usually only an approximation of this final result. As such, each step along the way is called a successive approximation.

My girlfriend wants me to stop eating hamburgers. So every time I go to McDonald’s, she punishes me with a harsh love tap every bite I take. But when I reach for a chicken burger, I get a kiss. Each time I switch is a successive approximation for me to eventually stop eating succulent, juicy, delicious hamburgers. Dammit.