Where do I start on this?

First, a clarification. I’m not talking about children, I’m talking about adults and inter-personal relationships. I’m also not talking about tryin to stop someone from doing something bad, instead I’m talking about people trying to instill a certain behaviour in other people.

I’m going to take you back to an experience I had at a SARDA “Development Weekend” some time ago, where a few trainers from oop North showed me an intersting training technique. One person was the ‘handler’, and another the ‘dog’. The group were to decide on a particular task that was unusual – not somethign you do ever day, like putting a coat on backwards, or putting the chair on the bed – something like that. With the task decided, the ‘dog’ was let into the room. Only the handler could make a noise, and the only noise they could make was to continuously clap when the dog was doing the right thing. So the ‘dog’ walks in and turns left, the handler starts clapping because he’s turning the right way. When he walks past the object, she stops clapping. The ‘dog’, in the absence of a “reward” turns back again and the clapping starts. In this way, we quickly saw the dog trying new things until he got it right.

Then two more peole were chosen and the ‘dog’ taken out. This time, instead of clapping, the handler could only shout “No!” when he did something wrong. The difference was incredible. We failed completely to complete the task.

The purpose of this was to demonstrate how powerful positive reinforcement was in relation to training dogs. Do something right, give them a reward (food, attention, fuss – the usual thing a dog craves). Do something wrong, don’t punish them, but instead remove the reward. I ysed this to great effect to train Arthur to not jump up on me when I came into the house.

Now while this is with dogs and very simplistic, at the time it occurred to me how we do this with people. On a far more subtle level of course, but still. As a result, I’ve come to realise that whilst there is a time and a place for negative reinforcement, the act of trying to get people to behave in a certain way (submit information daily for example) is a behavioural issue and will not work with negative reinforcement.

So, (and here’s where the rant comes into it) why do people insist on using this technique when it’s been proven time and time again that it doesn’t work?


4 Responses to “Positive feedback or negative feedback?”

  1. mumsey_onroad says:

    You may have a sticker AND a cookie.

  2. bronchitikat says:

    “why do people insist on using this technique when it’s been proven time and time again that it doesn’t work?”

    Because that’s the way they’ve been trained? Cos it’s easier – for them, even if it doesn’t work? Look at the papers – always trying to knock people down rather than encourage them, so how do they expect readers to react? Cos that’s the way the (business) world seems to work?

    Never mind, you keep leading by encouragement. & I hope Jon realises quite how fortunate he is!

  3. ziggadon says:

    Hey, I never got a reward for not jumping on you when you came in the house 🙁

  4. taffyboy says:

    Exactly. What does the lack of a reward for not doing it suggest….? Don’t you usually get a reward when you jump on me (snuggles etc etc)?

    That said, you probably want to be careful with the jumping, as reards are difficult to provide whilst suffering from concussion… 😛