Sit, Stay, Take out the Trash?!?

user-pic
Vote 0 Votes


Have you ever watched a movie where a dog was extremely well trained? Have you ever seen dolphins jump out of the water and do tricks? Have you ever looked at your own dog, not as well trained? Do the dolphins in the wild jump out of the water for the amusement of fishermen? The answer is probably no to your dog, and to the dolphin. Is this just Hollywood magic, or just dolphins at the top of their class? The answer to this is revealed in chapter six with the introduction of Operant Conditioning. Through shaping and chaining, animals can do tasks by human design. This groundbreaking discover was found by none other than B.F. Skinner and students here at the U of M.
Through the techniques of shaping and chaining animals are more than just lovable pets; they are animals capable of "training" to do complex tasks. The process is actually quite simple. The animal is offered a reward for doing anything that resembles what the task is. For example if you were trying to teach a dog to fetch the newspaper, it would be rewarded for walking to the door. Then maybe rewarded for going through the doggy door, next walking to the paper, picking it up, and finally returning with it. Another interesting thought is that these techniques are relatively new, which makes one thinks that we have barely tapped its potential.
When does the usefulness of operant conditioning stop? I mean can you teach your animals how to live their lives? Is it possible to in a sense make them go against nature and live life like a different animal? I wonder about the consciousness of animals, if they have it is it simply overwritten? If so what is to say that we are selves are not slaves to operant conditioning of society. We all seem to get out of bed, go to school, and for the most part stay within social norms. Is this natural for us to do, or is it a product of operant conditioning? Thoughts?

8 Comments

| Leave a comment

This is very interesting to me, where animals can perform tricks. Us humans have found ways to build up these magnificent tricks using a reward, which is called using operant conditioning. That is a good point talking about being slaves. I think that in some cases, operant conditioning can somewhat resemble being a slave, in a way where humans can teach dogs to fight each other. This is obviously a horrible way to express operant conditioning (the winning dog gets a reward) but this is a way how something can be manipulated into being type of "slave". Either way, operant conditioning is a useful tool in psychology today, and it teaches us many things.

I think it very interesting that you extend the idea of operant conditioning to common human behaviors today. Every movement triggers a consequence and it is how that consequence affects us that help us decide on our following movement or response. So I guess in general, you can find numerous human behavior cases that are tied to the idea. And it is funny too to think of us human as "slaves" to some extent in terms of products of operant conditioning. The question, however, is who elicits it? Who designs the complex social systems that are based on operant conditioning? The natural selection? Can human survive without experiencing operant conditioning??

Provocative questions...What do you think? Do animals have consciousness? Even if they do behave because of operant conditioning, does that mean they don't have consciousness? Or ourselves, for that matter? Have you ever trained an animal to do something that was against its nature?

After reading this post, my head is spinning with different thoughts. You bring up some great questions! I think that they should take a test sample and see how far an animal can go! Like you said, are there any limits to the shaping? I think it needs to be tested to its furthest potential to see what happens.

This post is really interesting that it motivates me to think differently. I was always wondering would a trained animal be able to adjust to wildlife. I know there is another long-term training session for those kinds of animals, but is it really helpful? It costs a lot but for what? Why people train animals even when they are going to turn them back to the nature lalter?

This post brings about many thoughts, I have always wondered about the consciousness of animals as well. I feel like it is clear we are superior to animals because we are the ones training them, nto vice versa.

Untapped resource for sure. Think about this, why not use operant conditioning for your girlfriend. That would make for one awesome relationship. Maybe a little cruel, but you would know what to do to control a situation. Might be nice to some extent.

I can not wait to have a pet or animal that I can train to do various tasks. I also think it is very interesting that these methods can be applied to human beings and I think the point you brought up about whether we are conditioned by society is interesting because I do believe that humans are somewhat conditioned by where they live and this can be seen by different cultural norms in different societies.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by shul0129 published on March 4, 2012 9:42 PM.

Alzheimer's: Life Changing at Minimum was the previous entry in this blog.

Whose memory is correct? Yours? Mine? is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.