“The future is already here;
it’s just not uniformly distributed”
The above quote is from Bill Buxton’s commentary in the October 2004 issue of Time Magazine for their annual “What’s Next” predictions of the future. The article explained that before the public was aware of the modern discoveries and inventions that we take for granted today, for decades they were familiar to a handful of people. For example: although the internet, a “cooperative network of time-sharing computers,” conceived of in the 60′s was utilized by the military in the 70′s it did not enter the general consciousness of the public until the late 1990′s and only became commonly used after the turn of the 21st century. Scientists discovered and understood the principles of immunity long before vaccinations became a standard of care; airplanes and automobiles were invented and a novelty for a few decades before becoming common transportation. Today behavioral science is at the precipice of changing the way we do everything!
In the middle of the 20th century, BF Skinner began the scientific journey to understanding behavior and learning, proving the concept of operant conditioning, i.e. the fact that “consequences control behavior.” The data, collected by him and others in the next several decades, led to a wealth of empirical evidence advancing our knowledge of the way learning and behavior is acquired. In the last few decades, neuroscience provided the tools to observe the physical changes that occur in the brain providing further evidence of the conclusions of the earlier empirical data. One of Skinner’s basic conclusions was that behavior is driven by reinforcement consequences (strengthening with reward) and that punishment or aversive consequences only suppress undesired behavior. For true change to occur, the reinforcement has to be adjusted.
This blog serves to advance the understanding of all the Tricks, Tools, and Rules that make the application of behavior modification and learning more successful and to avoid the unintended consequences caused by punishment (sometimes referred to as the “fallout of punishment”). When this science becomes “uniformly distributed” and understood by the general public the phenomena of “unintended consequences,” in training our dogs, raising our children, supervising our staff, spending our government funds, will greatly diminish. Welcome to the future.
Early pioneers, Bob Bailey, Marion Breland Bailey, Keller Breland, Skinner students who went on to create Animal Behavior Enterprises (1950s) a commercial animal training business using Skinners work.
“Marian and Keller first intended to get into dog training, but were met with rejection and deaf ears and Marian describes: ‘We knew there were so many dogs in the country and people always wanted to get them trained. So we thought this would be a cinch. We’d tell people about this new humane way of training and they’d be talking to us by the thousands. Nobody listened to us.’”.
Karen Pryor, author of the book “Don’t Shoot the Dog” published in the 1980s, popularized force free training methods based on operant conditioning.