Saturday, June 6, 2009

Conditioned Aversives - Part III

In yesterday's post, I asked the question:
Do I stop drinking coffee in the bird room?

The advantage: It would work; it is changing the antecedent.
The disadvantage: No morning coffee for me in the bird room!

What are some other choices and the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Option #1:
Remove the Cup From the Room Under Cover of Darkness

Advantages:
  • I would be able to drink coffee in the bird room.
  • I am not reinforcing aggression toward the coffee cup.
Disadvantages:
  • She may see me.
  • I am a clutz in the light; in the dark I am a walking accident.
  • I may forget, and leave the room in the morning with the cup.

Option #2:

Bring two cups into the room in the morning, leave one on the table and walk out with the other.
It would be my prediction that leaving one cup on the table, while walking out with the other in my hand, would have no effect on the conditioned aversive of leaving with one cup. I believe I could leave ten cups on the table, and leaving with one would still evoke a response. However, I could try this option and observe Coco's reaction.

Option #3:
Have my husband remove the cup from the room after I leave for work.
Certainly, Coco does not have the relationship with my husband that she has with me. Often when he enters the room she immediately says 'bye' to him, perhaps indicating that she would like to see him do that thing people do when they say bye... in other words, disappear!

Advantages:
  • I would be able to drink coffee in the bird room.
  • I am not reinforcing aggression toward the coffee cup.
Disadvantages:
  • I may forget, and leave the room in the morning with the cup.
  • Seeing him remove the cup may still be associated with my not returning, resulting in no change of the conditioned aversive. If so:
    • Pairing my husband with a conditioned aversive would downgrade his relationship with her.
    • Aggression toward the coffee cup would be reinforced.
    • It could result in aggression toward my husband.
Option #4:
Remove the Cup From the Room Sometime After I Return Home
It would be my prediction that time of day would not affect the conditioned aversive. However, I could try it while observing her reaction.

Advantages:
  • I would be able to drink coffee in the bird room.
  • I would not be reinforcing aggression toward the coffee cup.
Disadvantages:
  • The time of day may be irrelevant.
  • Removing the cup shortly after arriving home, following the excitement of just receiving a high value reinforcer (me), followed by me leaving the room with the cup (and the possibility that I may not return for an extended period of time), may strengthen the conditioned aversive and aggression toward the coffee cup.
  • I may forget, and leave the room in the morning with the cup.

Option #5:
Use a cup that Coco has never seen.
I have observed that my leaving the room with anything that looks remotely like my regular coffee cup (a travel mug) is a conditioned aversive.

I have a teapot that sits on top of a matching teacup, so using this is an option.


Advantages:
  • I can drink coffee while in the bird room.
  • I am not reinforcing aggression toward the coffee cup.
Disadvantages:
  • I risk turning the new situation, walking out of the room with the teapot, into a conditioned aversive.
  • I like drinking out of my coffee cup; it keeps the coffee much warmer!
  • I may forget to use the teapot.

Option #6:
Slip the coffee cup under my shirt, or place a towel or blanket over it, before I leave the room.

Advantages:
  • I could drink coffee in the bird room.
  • I am not reinforcing aggression toward the coffee cup.
Disadvantages:
  • My actions would be dishonest and manipulative.
  • She may start biting at my shirt (or towels or blankets) seeking the 'hidden' coffee cup.
  • I may forget and leave the room with the cup exposed.
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Choices... choices... choices....

Lots of choices! It is good to see them and consider the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Certainly, in choosing an option, personal preference is a consideration. For example, someone who drinks coffee once a month may, without hesitation, opt to never take the cup into the bird room again.

If we reflect back on the disadvantages of the above options, we see a commonality:

I must consider my actions, and be on guard in a manner of speaking.

This is in opposition to my goal of living in a relationship with my birds, at peace, relaxed and enjoying our time! And I want them to enjoy their time with me as well! I do not want to worry that one moment of forgetfulness may result in Coco flying across the room, attacking the cup and anyone or anything in her way!

Imagine this: A friend comes over; I offer them a cup of coffee that is served in one of my many travel mugs. We enter the bird room, and get involved in talking, checking out the birds and the forts.... the coffee cup my friend is holding is not on my mind.

I turn to my friend and ask if they need a refill. They say yes, hand me the cup, and I walk out of the room with it! Bingo - I've got a potential situation on my hands!

So for me, the choice has been made to take steps to change the conditioned aversive to a neutral, and possibly, to a conditioned reinforcer!

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

How about using disposible cups? Throw it away in the room.
Get the bird its own cup full of juice or treats so its focusing on its cup when you leave with yours.

Robin said...

Actually, a throw away cup is one option I had not considered! Nice job thinking outside the 'cup'! :)

Peter said...

What about asking Coco to go out with you when you take the cup? Then leave the cup on the counter, and return her to the bird room

wolfgirl1987 said...

Oops. the above post was meant to be written by me. I was logged in to my husband's account by accident

Robin said...

Oh, great Wolfgirl... you've got multiple personalities! It's a good thing we know each other! LOL!

Actually, you and Sherry are on target... providing methods of working to change the aversive situation!

Presently, Coco will not come anywhere near stepping on my hand while I am holding the cup (more about that in today's post), but this is a great goal to work toward with smaller steps first!

And, I just so love the thought of a disposable cup - a clever compromise!

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