Cautela, J. R., & Kearney, A. J. (1986). The covert conditioning handbook. New York, NY: Springer.

Covert modeling is based on its overt equivalent. The principles of reinforcement are applied to imagined scenes according to rules of contingent control that are established for overt behaviors. [Cautela, J. R. (1971, September). Covert modeling. A paper presented at the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, Washington, D.C.] Covert modeling normally involves the learning of new behaviors or the altering of existing behaviors by imagining scenes of others interacting with the environment. It can be used alone or in combination with other procedures.

In situations where the S imagines him/herself and it is difficult or reported as being negative, other Ss are substituted in the initial stages of the imagery. Through gradual progressions, the scene is altered to finally result in the final desirable behavior with the S being substituted for the original imagined individual. A number of steps are proposed in this procedure.

  1. Imagine other(s) performing a target behavior (similar to watching a movie).
  2. Gradually alter the other to be the S.
  3. Gradually alter the scene to be a realistic representation of the intended target behavior and for the S to become independent of the psychologist.
  4. Imagine oneself performing successfully in the situation and perform covert positive reinforcement (CPR). The quality of the imagery is very important at this stage.
  5. Perform the behavior in a real-life situation.

Each of these steps will need appropriate behavior technologies applied (e.g., shaping, fading along a stimulus dimension). The progression through these steps is dependent upon the individual and the problem.

Implication. This procedure is for use by psychologists. It could be very useful for sports. In the few published reports of its use it has proven to be very successful. [Rushall, B. S. (1988). Covert modeling as a procedure for altering an elite athlete's psychological state. Sport Psychologist, 2, 131-140; and Rushall, B. S. (1992). The restoration of performance capacity by cognitive restructuring and covert positive reinforcement in an elite athlete. In J. R. Cautela & A. J. Kearney (Eds.), Covert conditioning casebook. Boston: Brooks-Cole.]

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