Biofeedback evolved out of early laboratory research in the 1940’s. In the 1950’s and 1960’s researchers from different fields independently studied various applications of feedback mechanisms to modify physiological functions in animals and humans. H.D. Kimmel, Neal Miller and David Shapiro were among the psychologists using operant conditioning models to further biofeedback research, and it was in the late 1960’s that the term biofeedback was first used to describe this type of learning. Early researchers thought that the instrumentation itself exerted direct psychophysiological effects and that the feedback information functioned as a kind of behavioral reward which led to symptom reduction. As a result, early outcome studies designed to show clinical effectiveness under-emphasized the important role of training in biofeedback.
Contemporary clinicians and researchers now view successful biofeedback treatment as contingent largely on skills acquisition and mastery, and the focus of research has shifted increasingly from demonstrating efficacy to refining and improving training procedures. In 1969, researchers joined together to form the Biofeedback Research Society (renamed the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback) to promote communication, study, and application of biofeedback in the U.S.