We are all still shocked and grieving from September 11, an experience so unprecedented that no name or phrase seems to fit; we are left with the date alone to describe it. I'd like to thank the many, many overseas clicker trainers and associates who emailed us at clickertraining.com to express their distress and sympathy at this national horrific event. Whether or not we lost a friend or family member, every American grieves.
Three days after the attack, Alexandra Kurland, author of Clicker Training for Your Horse, wrote a thoughtful post to a horse clicker list, on questions that are in all of our minds. How could someone do this? What happens next? Alex is particularly well-suited to ask questions about fear and rage, punishment and retribution, in terms of behavior analysis, because she sometimes works with very dangerous horses - horses that have been ruined by their training. I have watched the turn-around in some of these menaces, and the change is so profound it's almost eerie. Click here to read Alexandra's post.
I don't presume to suggest that you can do the same with a person or with a nation. I think, however, that what we do as clicker trainers gives us some new ways to think about all behavior; some possibilities that I know were not there for me before I learned how to use reinforcement. Clicker trainers are learning and doing something valuable as a community. Where it will have an impact or how it might help the world at large I can't say, but hope it can make a contribution - if only to share the changes in our own perceptions about behavior as we become more adept in this technology we are developing.
Please feel free to respond, and to share your thoughts to karenpryor [at] clickertraining [dot] com. I will be glad to post your comments.
Finally, my apologies for the incomplete letter that went out in September, to the whole clicker community, asking about learning through observation. The list is so big that the software clutched; so the question didn't go out when it should have, in August, and didn't include the example that sparked my curiosity in the first place. Here it is: Learning by observation: cat watching dog. Over 100 people contributed their own interesting experiences. These kinds of contributions are not just "anecdotal" and trivial. Erich Klinghammer pointed out to me once that an anecdote is something you heard about, not something you observed happening. A description of something you've personally seen, regardless of how you or others might interpret it, is a valid observation. Descriptions of carefully observed events, therefore, are the first step in the scientific process, coming before hypotheses and experimentation. And believe me, clicker trainers are sharp and careful observers. Thanks.