Thursday, March 6, 2008

Odds and Ends of Learning Theory Vocabulary

Premack's Theory of Reinforcement – something good can reinforce something not as good. If you do a certain thing you have the chance to do something else that you really like. This has the possibility of increasing the likelihood of the desired behavior without having to use a standard food reward, although food can be used.

My insane black Lab, Beamish, had the hardest time learning “stay”. I was very frustrated, both with the lack of progress and with him bowling me over as we would head up stairs. One day I told him to “stay” at the bottom of the stairs and he actually did it while I went up about 4 stairs. Then I released him and he tore up the stairs. I started asking him for longer and longer stays with running up the stairs as a reward. He wound up with a fabulous stay.

This evening I brought out a plastic recorder for Bug to play. She was being pushy and grabby so I told her to sit on a pillow and wait for me to call her over for it. When she finally managed to sit in one place, I told her to come over and get the recorder.

Extinction – when no reinforcement is given for a response, the response is no longer offered. Be aware of extinction bursts or periods of response, often very intense.

See for examples of extinction and extinction bursts.

Capturing behavior – waiting until the student does the behavior and reinforce it right away. (Works well with very active students who offer a lot of behaviors.)

I wanted to put Beamish's jumping up on cue. I stuck a clicker and treats in my pocket and walked into the house. Beamish jumped on me and I reinforced him for it.

My mom realized that Bug hadn't pooped all morning. After lunch she put Bug on the potty and low and behold, there was poop. She was heavily praised and got extra stories. (And probably candy, but she didn't mention that part.)

Shaping by successive approximations – the student is reinforced for small steps leading up to the finished behavior. (Great for fearful or aggressive dogs – or kids I guess.)

In heeling Havana was first rewarded for sitting at my left and looking at me. Then she was reinforced only if she took a step when I did. Then reinforced for taking two steps, then three, etc. until she was able to walk a straight line across the room in heel position.

Bug started off building towers by lining up blocks. Seeing how impressed we were was reinforcing, so she started putting one block on top of the other and oohs and aahs ensued. Then she figured out the towers make a great crash if they're taller and she's gradually developed her skill to be able to build towers 15-20 blocks high.

Prompting or luring – using physical placement, manipulating the environment, or a treat to encourage movement toward the desired behavior. (A quick way to get the behavior.)

To teach Havana to finish to the right (sit in front of me and then move around to my right, swing behind me and get into heel position on my left) I put a treat in front of her face and let her follow it around behind me until she was in heel position. Then I clicked her and let her have the treat once she was in position.

I'm not proud of this, but sometimes a Mom's gotta do what a Mom's gotta do. Sometimes when Bug is being very difficult about leaving a room – like her Daddy's office when he's trying to have a conference call with work – I take her beloved giraffe and walk out of the room with it. As much as she loves Daddy, she has to have her giraffe at all times so she follows me. As soon as she's out of the office and the door is closed she gets her giraffe.

Back Chaining – breaking a behavior down into its individual parts and then the last part of the behavior is trained first so that it becomes rewarding in and of itself. (Uses Premack.) Then the second to last behavior is trained, third to last, etc.

We have a flyball tournament this week so I've got those examples in my mind. The very first thing I did when I got Havana was teach her to tug, largely because in flyball I want her to come back to the tug. Then we set her at the box and had her jump from the box to me. From there we taught her how to operate the box and then to go from the start line over the jumps to the box. Each old behavior was a reward for the newly learned behavior.

Potty training is also very much at the forefront of my mind. Bug loves playing in the water in the sink. From there I let her “help” flush the toilet, then put toilet paper in to watch it swirl when she flushes. All of this before she ever even sat on the potty. We're now at the stage where she doesn't get to flush or wash her hands unless she uses the potty (as opposed to just sitting there and asking me to read her stories over and over).

1 comment:

megangiselle said...

Hi! Very enjoyable blog! And educational.
Found it through your sig on the CPDT Prep email list - not currently studying for the cert, but its in the future for me sometimes!

I've subscribed to it through my Google Reader, so I won't forget to check it regularly.