Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pavlov vs. Skinner

This section really has very little to do with every day life. Feel free to skip it unless you're a big behavior nerd like me.

There are two types of conditioning or learning. One is Classical Conditioning and the other is Operant Conditioning.

Classical conditioning happens when the student makes a connection between two things. She then responds to the first event in anticipation of the second event. The response is not required for the unconditioned stimulus to appear. This type of learning is often associated with Pavlov and his drooling dogs.

Conditioned Stimulus or CS – a stimulus or cue which has no meaning and is presented before an unconditioned stimulus.

Unconditioned Stimulus or UCS – a stimulus or cue that always causes an unconditioned response.

Unconditioned Response or UCR – something that automatically happens in the presence of the UCS. It does not have to be taught. (May be a reflex.)

Conditioned Response or CR – what is taught to the learner when she associates the CS and the UCS.

Cousteau has learned that a certain route leads to the dog park. The first time or two we went to the park nothing happened. Then he made the association between that route and the park and from that point on as soon as we approach the route to the dog park he begins to howl and sing at the top of his lungs.

CS – the route to the park

UCS – being off leash around dogs at the park

UCR – enjoyment of freedom and fun

CR – anticipation of enjoyment of freedom and fun

Bug has learned that when we shop in a certain place we will stop for Starbucks. In the beginning we could do some shopping and if I felt like a hot drink we would go into the coffee shop. That routine has been repeated enough that as soon as we are at the cash register, Bug asks me if she can have a “vanilla milk”.

CS – our presence at a cash register at a certain shopping center

UCS – vanilla milk

UCR – crave vanilla milk (or drools...)

CR – ask to go to Starbucks for vanilla milk

Operant Conditioning is when a student understands that his behavior has consequences. He must do something to make something else happen. This type of learning is associated wit B.F. Skinner, Kellar Breland, Marian Breland Bailey, and Bob Bailey.

ABCs of Operant Conditioning

A ---> B ---> C

A = Antecedent or cue (or discriminative stimulus if you want to be fancy)

B = Behavior or the student's response to the antecedent.

C = Consequence (or punishment or reward) as a result of the behavior.

In flyball Havana is told to “hit it” and must go over the 4 jumps, hit the box, catch her ball and bring it back over the jumps to me. When I have the ball, she gets her tug.

A – hearing “hit it” (or just seeing the jumps and the box)

B - bringing the ball to me

C – playing tug

Bug has learned to sit in her chair if she wants popcorn at snack time. As soon as the popcorn popper comes out she goes to her chair to wait.

A – presence of popcorn popper

B – sits in chair

C – gets a snack of popcorn (or as she says, a “nack a POPtorn”)

This is also where the concept of Thorndike's Law or the Law of Effect comes into play. That is “if a consequence is pleasant, the preceding behavior becomes more likely. If a consequence is unpleasant, the preceding behavior is less likely.” Basically – you do something and something good happens, you'll do that thing again. Do something and something bad happens, you won't do that thing again.

If I was cruising for punishment I'd get into the four possible types of consequences, but since I understand those fairly well I won't risk confusing myself. :)

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