Monday, January 23, 2012

Training Methods

There are many, many ways to train a dog, cat, horse, goat, etc. although, in truth, I think they are generally much better at training us than we are at training them. One of the core concepts in training (including humans) is the idea of reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is basically when the result of performing the correct action is receiving a pleasant reward such as a pat on the head, a belly rub, or a lovely "Willy Wonka" from the Marble Slab Creamery (oops, I digress into my positive reinforcement desires). Negative reinforcement is basically when an unpleasant "reward"such as taking away all access to chocolate is used to alter a behavior; for instance if I leave for work too late I lose my chance for a cup of coffee where if I get up early enough I have time. I learn to get up earlier to avoid the negative consequence. It is very easy to inadvertantly mix both positive and negative reinforcement which is very confusing for the trainee and always results in undesirable behavior. A really good example of this is the hyperactive pup craving attention that jumps on people then gets attention that is negative but attention nonetheless therefore the behavior continues unabated and worsens.

There is also the concept of punishment and other ideas but they are beyond the scope of my interest at the moment. Most good trainers agree that positive reinforcement is the better method although, sadly, there are still those who would rather force their will instead of asking a partnership. That statement, as well as all of the above, is meant for both animals and humans.

All of that said, I really wish someone would try positive reinforcement with me sometimes... I have an idea I'd respond really well.


HDsheena said...

I like this post very much.
The behaviour nerd in me cringes a bit though. You refer to negative reinforcement, when what you mean is negative punishment. It's complicated stuff...
Positive = add
Negative = remove
Reinf = increase behaviour
Punish = decrease behaviour
so your example, of being late removes coffee... Decreases lateness. That's Negative Punishment.
Negative reinforcement is like your light/dinger for your seatbelt. it's annoying, and keeps dinging until you do your seatbelt up, INCREASING your seatbelt-doing behaviour because it stops being annoying..
I hope that wasn't MORE confusing. Quadrants are hard!

Dr. May B. Insane said...

I rarely respond to comments primarily because of my personality type which kinda expects people to accurately fill in the details that are in my mind and that they couldn't possibly have a way of knowing;). That said, I respectfully disagree not with your definitions (spot on!) but that my example is wrong. I see wherein the confusion lies, however, and will attempt to clarify. I explained poorly. On the surface, it appears that I am saying taking away my coffee is the reinforcement which would be negative punishment. What you were supposed to infer is that of late I have become a noxious stimulant if not given coffee, therefore I am avoiding the noxious stimulant (i.e. living with my coffee deprived self all day and inflicting myself on others) if I get up earlier. Technically, I think it is a combination of negative reinforcement and negative punishment but, in truth, I think that most operant conditioning occurs as an overlap. I do agree with the comments found in most of the literature that negative conditioning of any kind typically results in fear and aggression; which was one of the initial instigations of my post. Now you see one of the reasons I avoid explaining my thought processes too frequently; I get way too wordy and way too convoluted...

Jono said...

Of all the animals we have at home, the one that trained us best is the mule. I could swear he has read B.F. Skinner.

Earl said...

>from the Marble Slab Creamery (oops, I digress<

Reminds me of a coworker's young children wanting to go to the Marble Slob for ice cream. Always brings a smile to my face.