Quantitative models of persistence and relapse from the perspective of behavioral momentum theory: Fits and misfits

John A. Nevin, Andrew R. Craig, Paul J. Cunningham, Christopher A. Podlesnik, Timothy A. Shahan, Mary M. Sweeney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


We review quantitative accounts of behavioral momentum theory (BMT), its application to clinical treatment, and its extension to post-intervention relapse of target behavior. We suggest that its extension can account for relapse using reinstatement and renewal models, but that its application to resurgence is flawed both conceptually and in its failure to account for recent data. We propose that the enhanced persistence of target behavior engendered by alternative reinforcers is limited to their concurrent availability within a distinctive stimulus context. However, a failure to find effects of stimulus-correlated reinforcer rates in a Pavlovian-to-Instrumental Transfer (PIT) paradigm challenges even a straightforward Pavlovian account of alternative reinforcer effects. BMT has been valuable in understanding basic research findings and in guiding clinical applications and accounting for their data, but alternatives are needed that can account more effectively for resurgence while encompassing basic data on resistance to change as well as other forms of relapse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-99
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioural Processes
Issue numberPart 1
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Additivity of reinforcers
  • Behavioral momentum theory
  • Models of relapse
  • Pavlovian-instrumental transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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