Behavioral Experiment


Behavioral experiments are a particularly powerful technique used very commonly in CBT. They are information gathering exercises which can be used to test the validity of thoughts or beliefs, and which can be used to gather evidence for new beliefs. In essence, once a belief is clearly specified the evidence supporting it can be explored experimentally. Tests (experiments) are specified which can provide new information. This information may serve to confirm or disprove beliefs, or offer support in favour of one hypothesis over another.

There are many different types of behavioral experiment ranging from simple information gathering (such as surveys of community opinion), to experiential exercises (such as interoceptive exposure), to planned experiments designed to test a specific belief.

This Behavioral Experiment CBT worksheet guides you through the essential steps required to plan and evaluate behavioral experiments. It is well suited for planned experiments ("If I do X then Y will happen") but can equally be used for data gatheing ("If I ask X then I will learn Y").

Behavioral Experiment

Other resources

Key reading

  • Bennett-Levy, J., Butler, G., Fennell, M. J. V., Hackmann, A., Mueller, M., & Westbrook, D. (Eds.) (2004). The Oxford handbook of behavioural experiments. Oxford: Oxford University Press.