Behavior Technology 102: Stimulus Control
Time & Location
About The Event
Prerequisite: BehavTech 101
After discrimination and generalization, the student has a better understanding of the most basic learning processes and is ready to explore how a discriminated stimulus comes to control a particular behavior. This course busts a lot of myths about “controlling behavior” as students are introduced to what experimental behavior analysis has taught us about the most effective and efficient ways to put a behavior “on cue” – or in other words, to put a behavior under stimulus control – which is a more accurate and helpful way to describe what is really going on.
By definition, a behavior is under stimulus control (on cue) when the behavior occurs in the presence of a certain stimulus and does not occur when that stimulus is not present. Simple, right? Unfortunately many behaviors that a trainer may want under stimulus control by specific stimuli are not. In other words, the trainer gives a cue, but sometimes the behavior does not happen. Why does the animal not do a behavior the trainer swears the animal “knows?” This course is about getting a behavior to occur when you ask the animal to perform it, reliably and accurately.
Lectures, hands-on training and discussions in this course concentrate on choosing appropriate stimuli as cues, when and how to put a behavior under stimulus control (on cue), latency (the time between the cue and when the behavior starts), maintaining the accuracy (precision) of a behavior once it is under stimulus control, how to assess the reliability of a behavior, problem solving a behavior the trainer think is under stimulus control but, by the definition, is clearly not.
Good training is defined by good stimulus control. In this course, every exercise is “exactly the same”: Train a new behavior, put it under the control of a particular stimulus, then strengthen and maintain that precise behavior while under stimulus control. Once the student has the behavior under stimulus control, they tell the instructor they are ready to demonstrate it. The instructor comes over and says, “Okay then, do it… now.” Why is that so terrifying?! Because what the animal really learned from the information the trainer provided is now objectively revealed. It takes courage for all of us to put our work under such scrutiny. But this exposed self-evaluation of skills helps each student discover his or her strengths and weaknesses and leads to pathways for improvement.
This Behavior Technology course offers students many opportunities to repeat a systematic process of putting a new behavior under stimulus control. With each new exercise, the students deepen their understanding of why they have been instructed to follow a process instead of just hoping the dog “gets it” eventually. Knowledge of theory paired with success in hands-on training builds students’ confidence in their abilities. The goal is for students to take the knowledge and skills home to work on them on their own, then return with new, more sophisticated questions.