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Lecture 8

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PSYC 332
Richard Koestner

Lecture 8: 2013/01/31 Questions of the day: 1) Can we use reinforcement principles to change another’s personality? 2) Can we change another person’s personality with operant conditioning? 3) What can the training of exotic animals teach us about operant conditioning? The most e-mailed article of 2006 - Modern love: “what shamu taught me about a happy marriage” by Amy Sutherland - Eventually it hit me that the same techniques might work on that stubborn but lovable species, the American husband - The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t. After all, you don’t get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of this nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband - Need to know that how any reaction you give can be reinforcing. Alert to tone of voice, posture, movement. - SHAPING: I was using what trainers call “Approximations,” rewarding the small steps toward learning a whole new behavior. You can’t expect a baboon to learn to flip on command in one session, just as you can’t expect an American husband to begin regularly picking up his dirty socks by praising him once for picking up a single sock. With the baboon you first reward a hop, then a bigger hop, then an even bigger hop. With Scott the husband, I began to praise every small act every time: If he drove just a mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the hamper, or was on time for anything. Training incompatible behaviors (To treat undesirable behavior) - “Taught African crested cranes to stop landing on his head and shoulders. He did this by training the leggy birds to land on mats on the ground.” - “Rather than teach the cranes to stop landing on him, the trainer taught the birds something else, a behavior that would make the undesirable behavior impossible.” Any reaction can be reinforcing - I followed the students to SeaWorld San Diego, where a dolphin trainer introduced me to least reinforcing scenario (L.R.S). When a dolphin does something wrong, the trainer doesn’t respond in any way. He stands still for a few beats, careful not to look at the dolphin, and then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or negative, fuels a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it typically dies away. - Number one problem that we have as parents is we don’t realize that any attention to their children can be reinforcing. Long-term success - “After 2 years of exotic animal training my marriage is far smoother, my husband much easier to love. I used to take his faults personally; his dirty clothes on the floor were an affront, a symbol of how he didn’t care enough about me. But thinking of my husband as an exotic species gave me the distance I needed to consider our differences more objectively.” Everything is not trainable - I adopted he trainers’ motto: “It’s never the animal’s fault.” When my training attempts failed, I didn’t blame Scott. Rather, I brainstormed new strategies, thought up more incompatible behavior and used smaller approximations. I dissected my own behavior, considered how my actions might inadvertently fuel his. I also accepted that some behaviors were too entrenched, too instinctive to train away. You can’t stop a badger from digging, and you can’t stop my husband from losing his wallet and keys.” - Raccoon coin example from book Did Scott ever figure it out? - “When the training techniques worked so beautifully, I couldn’t resist telling my husband what I was up to. He wasn’t offended, just amused. As I explained the techniques and
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