The Consequences of Consequences

6 Feb

A nice presentation of operant conditioning basics.

The Science Dog

Operant learning is all about consequences. Most trainers and behaviorists are well-versed in the uses of pleasant and aversive stimuli as dog training consequences. These can be constructed into a 2 x 2 matrix that includes the type of stimulus (desirable/pleasant or aversive/unpleasant) as one factor and the intended behavioral change (increase or decrease response frequency) as the second factor (1).

Quadrants

Learning occurs when one of these four consequences lead to a change in the dog’s behavior:

  • Positive reinforcement (+R): Delivery (acquisition) of a desirable stimulus (food treat, praise, petting, play) results in an increase in the response. Example: Dog increases “sit” response to acquire petting and a food treat.
  • Negative Reinforcement (-R): Disappearance (avoidance) of an aversive stimulus (head collar pressure, collar jerk, harsh voice) results in an increase in the response that allows the dog to avoid the unpleasant stimulus. Example: Dog increases “sit” response to avoid pressure applied to head collar or…

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