Saturday, January 9, 2010

Punishment Part II

Or perhaps a better title for this post would be the alternatives to punishment!

We began the discussion of behavior change, and in particular the alternatives to 'punishment' in two previous posts:Do You Punish Your BirdPunishment Part IThere are 4 methods of behavior change, and two of them involve punishment:A. Positive ReinforcementB. Negative PunishmentC. Negative ReinforcementD. Positive PunishmentAll 4 methods will effect behavior change, so the question is which is least intrusive and least likely to have a detrimental affect on the relationship between bird and companion. The answer is: Positive ReinforcementI believe the lures for using punishment as a means of behavior change are:1) It is often a natural, human response.2) Many of us have had our behavior changed by means of punishment, so it is a learned experience and learned behavior.3) It can work quite quickly.If my bird screams, I cover it, and it stops screaming, then I have used positive punishment to effect behavior change. Positive because something was added, and punishment because a behavior (screaming) decreased.As I mentioned in a previous post entitled "Half Empty or Half Full", changing behavior through means of punishment, in addition to having a detrimental affect on the relationship, also places the focus on what we do not want to happen instead of focusing on a behavior that we would like to see more of (or see in place of the undesirable behavior).If we instead identify a behavior we would like to increase, one that can replace the behavior we find undesirable, we are on our way to changing behavior through reinforcement. We are also looking at the glass half full so to speak.When someone asks"How can I get my parrot to stop xyz..."We change the focus."What behavior would you prefer to see?"Of course, usually the answer is"Anything but xyz!"Analyzing and rephrasing leads to an opportunity for behavior change through means of reinforcement.For example:I would like my parrot to ring a bell when its food bowl is empty (instead of screaming).
It is Coco's reality that if she is unable to find food in any of her foraging areas, she will let me know through an excessively loud vocalization. It does not bother me, as both my husband and I know this signals her need for food. However, if we had a sleeping infant, close neighbors, or other life circumstances that made this behavior of concern to us, we would need to turn things around quickly!Her excessively loud vocalization is a way to alert us to one of her needs. She must have ways of expressing the needs to us, so if we would prefer her not do so with an excessively loud vocalization, we would want to provide her a different means of having her need met.So I would want to identify the behavior I would prefer to see instead of screaming. Once that behavior was identified (ringing a bell for example), then I begin to train that specific behavior. The bird learns that ringing the bell gets it a treat and/or food. In short order, when the bird wants a treat and/or food, it will ring the bell in order to get my attention. Thus I have resolved the screaming for food issue by training an alternate behavior.
It begins with identifying a behavior you would like to see increase, thereby creating an opportunity to reinforce that behavior as an alternative to one you would prefer to see decrease.

Yeah, yeah, yeah... how about we increase your behavior of opening my treat can?



Arlene said...

Great article as usual. I'm bookmarking all these articles so I can find them in a hurry.

Excuse me, but why does Barney always have to have the last word. What a ham. lol :)

louara said...

Interesting article Robin. I guess the key is to identify which behavior we want to see increase and work towards that goal.
Great job posing with the bells Coco, although Barney looks unimpressed!

Arlene said...

I guess this will work with budgies too. Although mine aren't as smart as Coco. ;)
I would like my Rosie to do something else when she wants a Cheerio instead of yelling. This will take some thinking.

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