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Training Theory

The Shape of Shaping: Some Historical Notes

Shaping is a concept that many pet owners find hard to grasp. We're used to making animals do things by leading them or pushing them into the behavior we want—and it is hard to believe that there is another way. Common sense tells us that there is no possible way to get an animal to do something it has never done before, doing nothing yourself but reinforcing spontaneous movements.

Clicker Classic: Can Reinforcers Be Too Powerful?

Eddy was hesitating, as I see it, over the possibility that using these very powerful reinforcers could allow you to develop animals that would work long past the humane level. He mentioned pigeons on long schedules that actually crack their beaks, pecking. I don't see that as manipulation or oppression, but as cooperation and delivery beyond the call of duty in a pinch; on a daily basis, I wouldn't ask for that.

Science Speaks Volumes

Five graduate students from the University of North Texas (UNT) presented their research last May at the annual meeting of the Association for Behavior Analysis in Atlanta. Over 2,000 behavior analysts from all over the world attend this meeting. The students prepared their work under the auspices of their professor, Jesús Rosales-Ruiz of the UNT department of behavior analysis, who is also a popular member of the ClickerExpo faculty.

Training a Fish: Goldfish-Click

Note: Ogden Lindsley was one of B.F. Skinners' first graduate students, a past president of the Association for Behavior analysis, and one of the first behavior analysts to grasp the power of shaping with a conditioned reinforcer. As a professor at the University of Kansas, he required his own students to shape behavior; many of them used goldfish. The instructions here for clicker training a goldfish are easy to follow and make a good science project. Karen Pryor

Fading the Click?

When do I fade the click? How do I fade the click? We hear those questions all the time. The smart-aleck answer is "Never." Because we don't "fade" the click. Fading means doing something smaller and smaller until a tiny version of the original stimulus will serve, or until the learner no longer needs outside help to do the behavior. We don't do that with a click; either you clicked, or you didn't. Period. The term "fading" applies to prompts and cues; not to the marker signal.