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PetaClarke LearningTheory104 Assignment#6of14.

WriteanessayexplainingthePremackPrincipleandhowitcanbeappliedtodog trainingandbehaviourmodificationbothtopromoteappropriatebehaviour(thereby preventingproblems)andalsotohelpaddressproblembehaviour.

Whenwethinkabouttheuseofpositivereinforcementindogtrainingmuchofourfocusis placedontherelationshipbetweenthedogsbehaviourandourdeliveryofthestimuluswe havelabelledasareinforcer.Thisfocusisjustified,asitistheassociationthedogmakes betweentheirbehaviourandthereinforcingconsequencethatworkstostrengthenand maintainthedogsfuturebehaviour.

Whilethemajorityofdogtrainersarehappytosimplyusepositivereinforcementtraining techniquestobetterthelivesofdogs(andowners)everywhere,scientistsarentsoeasily contentedandmanypsychologistshaveattemptedtosolvethepuzzleofjustwhatis reinforcingaboutareinforcer(Chance,2003,p172).

Theprinciplesofreinforcementtheoryareusuallydescribedasacontingencybetweenan operantbehaviourandanenvironmentalconsequence,suggestingthattheresponseandthe consequencearetwodistinctclassesofevents(Pierce&Epling,1999,p344).The psychologistDavidPremacktookaverydifferentviewtotheproblemofwhyreinforcers strengthenbehaviourbynotingthattheconsequencescouldbethoughtofasbehaviours themselves(Chance,2003,p174).Ifwelookattheprinciplesofreinforcementtheoryinthis way,itseemsthatsomebehaviourswillactasreinforcersforotherbehaviours,whichis exactlywhatDavidPremacktheorised(Domjan,2003,p200).

Premackandhiscolleaguesconductedmanyexperimentstotesthistheory(Domjan,2003,p 200).Pierce&Eplingdescribea1962experimentwherePremackdeprivedratsofwaterfor 23hoursbeforeplacingtheminanenvironmentwheretheyhadthechoicetoruninawheel

ordrinkwater.Obviouslytheratswerethirsty,sotheyspentmoretimedrinkingwaterthan running.NextPremacksetupacontingencywhereaccesstowateronlycameaftertherats raninthewheel.Thiscontingencyincreasedthebehaviourofrunninginthewheel,showing thatdrinkingreinforcedrunning.Whenfreeaccesstowaterwasgiventheratsranmorethan theydrank.Premacklockedthewheelandonlyremovedthebrakeaftertheratshadlicked thewatertubeforafewseconds.Withthiscontingencyinplacetherateofdrinking increased,thatistheratsdranktogetachancetorunonthewheel.

Itisclearthatinanysituation,somebehaviourshaveagreaterlikelihoodofoccurringthan others(Chance,2003,p174).Thereforedifferentbehaviourshavedifferentvaluesrelativeto oneanotheratanymoment(Chance,2003,p174)inotherwords,somearemoredesirable toperformthanothers.AccordingtoPremack,itisthisrelativevaluethatdeterminesifone behaviourwillhavereinforcingpropertiesoveranother(Chance,2003,p174).Thusthe Premackprinciplestateshigherprobabilitybehaviourwillreinforcelowerprobability behaviour(Pierce&Epling,1999,p397).

ThePremackprinciplehelpsusrememberthatthevalueofareinforcerisrelativeand thereforechangeable(Domjan,2003,p202).Alltooftendogtrainersthinkofcertain stimuli,suchasfood,asareinforcerfirstandforemost.Whileeatingmaybehighuponthe choicebehaviourhierarchyformostdogs,therearesomesituationswhereitcomesinunder thechancetopartakeinotherbehaviours.Dogswhoattendtrainingclubsonceaweekare oftensaidtobehaveinwaysthatarestubbornandvengefulinthissituationastheystrain attheendofthelead(ignoringthecheesethatisbeingwavedaroundinfrontoftheirnose thathadthemgluedtotheirownerseverywordathome),togettotheirclassneighbour. Ratherthantheaboveconstructs,asoundknowledgeandapplicationofthePremack principle(nottomentiontheprocessofgeneralisation)wouldprovideownerswithagreat dealmorepowertousethebehaviourofsocialisingasthebestreinforcertostrengthenthe obediencebehaviourtheyareworkingon.

ToemploythePremackprincipleandidentifyeffectivereinforcersinanappliedsettingwe needtoknowtherelativevaluesofvariousactivitiesinagivensetting(Chance,2003,p174).

Thiscaneasilybedonebyobservingandnotinghowmuchtimeandenergytheanimalin questionputsintothevariousactivitiesonoffer(Chance,2003,p175).ThePremack principlealsogivestrainerstheopportunitytopersonalisereinforcementprocedurestotake advantageofindividualpreference(Domjan,2003,p202).Fordogtrainersandtheir charges,thiscanbedonebyobservingthedogandnotingthetimethedogspends performingvariousbehaviours.Oncethisinformationisgainedthehigherprobability behaviourscanbeusedtoreinforcelowerrankingbehavioursbybeingplacedunderstimulus controlandcuedwhenappropriateorcontrolledsomeotherway(suchastheuseofaleashor withholdingatoy).

Whenmyyoungestdogwasgrowingup,Ispentagreatdealoftimewatchingherandlisting allthedifferentactivitiesshewouldnaturallypartakein.Forinstanceatthelocalparkshe wouldcommonly: run sniff chaseaball chaseherbrother runbacktome chasethelocalbirds urinate defecate rollinthemud

Theabovelistwasmadewithnoparticularthoughtinmindastowhatshedidmoreof,but aftertwoyearsIhavesolidlyobservedahigherlikelihoodofchasingthelocalbirdsand chasingherballwhenthosetwobehavioursareavailable,thananyotheroftheabovelisted behaviours.Thebehaviourofballchasingwasaneasybehaviourtouseasareinforcerfor lowerprobabilitybehaviour,asIcontroltheballflyingthroughtheair.Usingchasingthe localbirdsasareinforcerinvolvedrestrictingaccesstothebehaviourbyhavingPearlonlead andonlyreleasingherafterpresentingtheaudiblestimulusCockies(AnAustralianslang wordforparrots)andpromptinghertorunafterthebirds.Gradually,theleadwasremoved

andPearlwouldremaininastayuntilgiventhecue.Thebehaviourisnowstronglyunder stimuluscontrolandagreatreinforcerforabeautifulagilityrun!

AnotherpersonalexampleofthePremackprincipleinvolvesallthreeofmydogs,allofwho lovearunatthepark.Moreoftenthannotthough,Iamreadytogohomebeforetheyare andthebehaviourofgettinginthecartogohomewaslessconsistentthanaprofessional animaltrainerwouldlike.Onthewayupthehilltothecarourroutinewastostopandhave adrinkatthetap.Allthreedogsshowedagreatdesiretolapupthecoolwateraftertheir run.Ifwaterdrinkingwasconsistentlyahighprobabilitybehaviouratthispoint,I wondered ifIcoulduseittostrengthenthelesslikelybehaviourofjumpinginthecar.Nowdaysthe dogsgettheirdrinkinthecarandalldogsmakeaboltupthehill,pastthetapandintothe backofthecarforthechancetohavetheirdrink.Thusdrinkingstrengthenedjumpinginthe car.

OneimportantfactorintheuseofthePremackprincipleinvolvesunderstandingthat deprivationofabehaviourwillincreaseitsprobability(Lindsay,2000,p251).Premack actuallyregardeddeprivationasanecessaryconditionforreinforcement(Domjan,2003,p 203)andithasbeenshownthatanybehaviourcanbemademoreprobableandtherefore morevaluablebydeprivingtheanimalaccesstoit(Lindsay,2000,p251).Thistheoryisan importantonetorememberaseventhemostcommonlydesiredbehaviourswilllosetheir valueoncethedoghashadtheopportunitytopartakeinthemforanylengthoftime. Deprivationandsatiationworkhandinhandtoinfluencethedesiresandthereforethe behavioursofourdogsatanygivenmoment.Intheaboveexampleofusingthechanceto haveadrinkofwatertoreinforcegettinginthecar,wecanseethatthisbehaviourisonly goingtohavereinforcingpropertiesafterthedogshavehadachancetorunandbuildupa desiretodrinkthatishigherthanthedesiretocontinuerunning.

WhiletheemphasisofthePremackprincipleisoftenontheuseofhigherprobability behaviourstostrengthenlowerprobabilitybehaviours,trainersalsoneedtokeepinmind lowerrankingbehaviourscanactaspunishersforhigherrankingbehavioursifacontingency iscreatedbetweenthetwo(Lindsay,2000,p251).Thelackofthisunderstandingamongst

petdogownersisoneofthemainreasonsforthedevelopmentofsomecommonbehaviour problems.Dogswhowillnotreturntotheirownerattheendofachancetorunoffleadoften learnnottorespondtothiscommandbecausethebehaviourofcomingispunishedbybeing placedonlead.Evenwhenthedogisgivenafoodtreatinthenameofreinforcementfor coming,eatingthetreatisoftenofalowervaluethancontinuingtorun,sothebehaviour weakens.Scenarioslikethishaveperpetuatedthemythinsomeinstancesthat reinforcementtrainingdoesntwork.Againwemustrememberthatthereisnothing absoluteaboutastimulusactingasareinforcer(Domjan,2003,p202).Understandingthe Premackprinciplecanbeagreathelpforthosetrainersnewtopositivereinforcement trainingtodojustthat.

Premackstheoryofreinforcementalsohastheadvantageofbeingstrictlyempirical (Chance,2003,p176).Asthescienceandartofdogtrainingemergesfromthetraditionof foundationssuchasdominance,drivesandothersuchconstructs,knowledgeofthePremack principlehelpstrainersunderstandpositivereinforcementtrainingbeyondthehandingoutof foodtreatsfordesiredresponses.Usingaccesstodesiredbehaviourstostrengthenlower probabilitybehaviourscanallowourdogsagreatdealmorefreedomthantheymayother wiseget.ThetrainingmethodofliferewardshasitsrootsinthePremackprincipleaswe usethedogspreferredbehaviourstopositivelyreinforceallthoselessthanlikelybut essentialobediencebehaviourseverydogshouldknowandrespondto.Ifyoungpuppies haveastrongassociationbetweentheirownerandaccesstoallthatisgoodintheworld, controllingtheirbehaviourwillbemademucheasierastheygrowintoadultdogs.

References: Chance,P.(2003)LearningandBehaviour,FifthEdition. WadsworthThomasLearningInc. Domjan,M(2003)ThePrinciplesofLearningandBehaviour,FifthEdition. WadsworthThomasLearningInc. Lindsay,S.(2000)HandbookofAppliedDogBehaviourandTraining,Volume1 IowaStateUniversityPress

Pierce,W.D.&Epling,W.F.(1999),BehaviourAnalysisandLearning, SecondEdition.PrenticeHall,Inc.