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18 January 2008

Sticky to the Fleshy?

"What's bred in the bone will stick to the flesh."
- Aesop

As a slave in ancient Greece, Aesop would have been well versed in conditioned responses. A command was given, and a whipping probably followed for good measure. After awhile, all it would take is the commanding voice to cause a wince in anticipation of the pain. And that was, let's see, in 550 BC. For those that slept late, that is a long, long time before American Idol went on air.

It wasn't until much later that society learned the adage of 'getting more with honey than with vinegar.' That is to say, rewarding someone for doing good, rather than kicking them in the crotch for doing not so good (hahaha) increases the reliability of the behavior you want to develop.

So after all of this time, it seems the undisputed experts in understanding conditioned responses are the canine familiaris, the dog, followed closely by kids. If you have a dog (or kids!), then you know of what I speak. They are experts in human behavior.

Ethan: Smells Tonya's Vegetarian Breast .... gets excited and salivates (well, me too actually. Pavlov would be so proud). And The behavior gets reinforced by getting fed.
Emily: Emily wants a she becomes an angel. And her good behavior gets reinforced by being granted a sleepover.

So when we expect, shape, mold or cajole behavior in order for those wishes to be met, we begin to turn the corner on understanding who is exactly training who....

We mentioned earlier about Mr. Ivan Pavlov. In that post we went into greater detail about behavioral responses, remember? If not, click here for a refresher.

Because of the similarity (now stay with me on this...) in how behaviors are reinforced, the study and application of how to develop reliable behaviors is not as species specific as we might think. A simple, easy to understand, common sense book on the topic is "Don't Shoot The Dog". I recommend it for parents, people in a relationship and pet owners. It is not a science book, just a simple, easy to read and understand practical book on how to get the reliable behaviors you want out of the people and things you want. The woman who wrote it pioneered the training of marine mammals (dolphins) to do tricks and underwater mine detection, etc. You can't put a leash on a killer whale to enforce a command so when you go to Sea World and see Shamu do his thing, you can thank Ms. Pryor's and Pavlov's pioneering work. Anyway, the 2nd page of my Daddios Recommended Reads over on the right panel has the book listed and you can research it more, order it or get the scoop and go buy it at the bookstore.

"Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind."
- Plato

Hopefully this weekend we can all find a positive behavior (in ourselves, in our kids, in our spouses, and/or our pets) to breed into their bones in order to create a more reliable comportment. Because once a behavior is habituated and it sticks to the flesh, life can be predictably and appreciably better. Unless you are hungry and the flesh is actually attached to a pork rib at a cookout of which case: bon app├ętit!

Want to learn more? You can go to any of the Google search bars located for your enjoyment on the right or at the bottom and search the web for anything and everything....


Tismee2 said...

Thanks for the curve ball again Michael. I am familiar with Pavlov having spent many an hour in the classroom with him and his behavoural theorist pals whilst studying to be a teacher.

Shamu's splash zone will never be the same again!

Deb in OPKS said...

Sometimes when you are in the moment it can be so hard to be positive! But when you actually do it, you will be amazed at the response you get!

FENICLE said...

I ditto deb in opks! You are so insightful!!

Whimspiration said...

Thanks for the recommendation!

Michael M. said...

Wow Abigail...impressive that you met him. On a vacation to Sea World, I asked how they picked which whales would perform at each show...and they said 'whichever whale is at the gate wanting to get through to the performace ring'. In essence, they do it because they know there is something good in it for them. I found that impressive. (They also train all of them to the same level and don't cull any of them).

Michael M. said...

Deb: Totally agree on that one. Easier said than done, fer sure. I am still waiting for an invite into that 'perfect world'. :)

Michael M. said...

Thank you Fenicle! (I enjoyed your honoring post about your husband today.)

Michael M. said...

Whimspiration: You are very welcome. Enjoy. Hopefully it will give you some new 'tools' for your 'tool box'.

And thanks for the visit!