mantz007: October 2011 Archives

Clicker Training 101

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A very important concept that was discovered by Ivan Pavlov while he was doing research on the digestion of dogs is classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is a form of learning in which animals come to respond to a previously neutral stimulus that had been paired with another stimulus that elicits an automatic response. This type of learning can be used to teach animals and humans to carry out a certain behavior or eliminate a certain behavior. Some everyday examples can be seen in advertising, fears and phobias, fetishes, disgust reactions, and training animals.

Clicker training was the way my family and I decided to train our new puppy Bella when we got her two years ago. Screen shot 2011-10-23 at 3.38.31 PM.png

I was hesitant at the idea of using a clicker to reinforce good behavior because I didn't understand how the noise of a clicker could tell the dog to continue a certain behavior. This became a lot clearer after learning about classical conditioning.

Training animals, and people for that matter, is not an easy task, but through classical conditioning it can be done. Training my dog simple things such as to sit when we told her to became a lot simpler using the clicker training. We conditioned our dog Bella to sit when she heard the noise of the clicker and then reinforced her with a treat. The clicker became the conditioned stimulus as it was now associated with a treat and then the conditioned response was her sitting. Eventually the treat was no longer needed to reinforce the behavior and then later on the clicker was able to be removed.

Here is an article that summarizes how to use clicker training and how the clicker becomes a conditioned stimulus:
http://www.understandinganimals.com/article/4

Now the question is, does clicker training, a form of classical conditioning really work? In my experience yes! Eventually my dog continued to sit on command even without the clicker which is what we wanted the outcome to be!

Here is a youtube video that shows a dog being trained using a clicker:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiSwb7iuVtw&feature=player_embedded

Research has found that there are many benefits to clicker training. Besides having your pet trained to do simple commands and difficult tricks, your dog will actually continue to display these learned behaviors after the clicker has been removed. Some other benefits of clicker training is that...
1) it's a positive training method free of harsh corrections
2) you can train dogs of any age
3) it creates a deep bond between you and your dog because it's based on cooperation
4) proven by animal behaviorists and animal trainers for many years
5) accurately marks the end of the desired behavior, which means clearer communication with the dog
6) the clicker can take the place of the treats so you don't have to worry about overfeeding your dog and spending extra cash buying treats.

These findings overrule the other hypotheses that clicker training doesn't last or isn't an effective method of training animals. (Ruling out Rival Hypothesis) Not only does clicker training work effectively it can also be repeated with the same animals, different animals, in people and in different environments. (Replicability)

Overall, classical conditioning was a huge discovery by Pavlov and has proved its way in research and in my experiences to work very well on animals and people.


There has been a widespread debate whether addiction is caused by the drugs themselves or some other factor. Psychology Today has an article that simply states the view point on "addictive personality".
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/look-it-way/200903/the-addictive-personality"

Addicted_by_DoraLovey.jpg

People across many societies and cultures can become addicted to alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. Is this addiction caused by their "addictive personality" or some other factor? According to Stephen Mason an author of Psychology Today, "addiction depends, first and foremost, upon having an addictive personality." Our society tends to believe that drugs are, all by themselves, addicting. Yet there are many people who can drink a few glasses of wine at dinner or who have smoked marijuana a few times and have not become addicted. Doesn't this fact, in and of itself, disprove our society's belief that drugs are addicting by themselves? Yes it does! Being addicted to something is merely an "out-of-control habit"; someone who wants to get that good feeling all the time and organizes there life around it. This means becoming absorbed in a task such as drinking, gambling, going to church or any other task that brings about good feelings for someone.
People with this "addictive personality",10%-15% of the population, simply don't know when to stop. This can refer to almost anything: drinking, smoking, going to church, or gambling. Stephen Mason brings up a common phrase that we have all heard of from our educators, peers, parents, and the media, "too much of a good thing can be bad." The people with this "addictive personality" are very good examples of this saying.

Here is a video that briefly explains "addictive personality":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85HM4b1cAsM

I agree with the many scientists that believe people can become easily addicted if they have an "addictive personality", yet there is proof that supports genetic influences on addiction as well. This being said, one cannot forget about other factors that can influence addiction and the other theories out there besides the "addictive personality" theory.

One more link that I would like to provide for this blog post includes a song written and performed by Rob Bryanton. This song explains a lot about the "addictive personality" and its possible causes.
http://imaginingthetenthdimension.blogspot.com/2008/02/song-10-of-26-addictive-personality.html

This song supports the idea of "addictive personality" but it also brings up questions of how this "addictive personality" came about. It could be from nature, nurture, media, or genes. All these things influence individuals, even their ability to become addicted to a certain drug or action.

"Watching" versus "Asking"

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Which method do you think determines someone's behavior better, watching behavior unfold in the real word or handing someone a questionnaire to fill out? In my opinion, naturalistic observation will compile the best results. These two approaches of studying human behavior have one major difference: "watching" versus "asking". The benefit of naturalistic observation is that the subject being studied doesn't know they are being observed so then the results aren't skewed. In this method of studying human behavior, the results seem to be truer as the subject is being one hundred percent themselves instead of possibly changing their behaviors or attitudes if they knew they were being studied.

Here is a short video that explains naturalistic observation really well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdXjPxOsfuo

Surveys can be an efficient approach to studying human behavior but there can be some downfalls. During surveys the participants might not put their full effort into their responses, they might not answer them honestly, and they could miss group variables such as race and gender. Overall, the method of naturalistic observation studies subjects in their elements without interference where as surveys can cause a participant to slightly alter their responses. I think these methods of observation are very important because they give scientists multiple ways of observing human behavior in a way that is best for their particular study whether that is naturalistic observation or a survey.

During high school I experienced both of these methods first hand. For one project I had to observe someone in his or her elements. While I was observing this person I had to be very careful not to be obvious that I was watching them so they wouldn't alter their behavior. For another project I had to survey a class for each subject regarding their grades and how much time they spent studying a week for that subject. Most of the results were typical straightforward answers such as a B or 3 hours a week. But then of course you had the students who didn't put answers such as "why do you need to know?" or "I don't know, you expect me to keep track". Answers like these skewed my results, as I had to take them out of my final results. These real life experiences helped me see that naturalistic behavior definitely allows the researcher into the person's behavior and life without skewing the results where as surveys can sometimes alter the outcome.

One thing that I still wonder about is, what kind of studies needs naturalistic observation and which studies would surveys work better for?

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by mantz007 in October 2011.

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