Lesson 8 – Shaping Behavior, Splitting Not Lumping


In this lesson, we are going to go over a process called splitting rather than lumping. In lesson nine we are going to be learning how to write a training plan. Then in lesson ten we, will  use this training plan, and our new knowledge to start shaping behaviors with our animals. We are going to be devising  small little baby steps to help us do this. The proper terminology for these baby steps is successive approximations. Think about them as small learn-able chunks. You have been through this process yourself. For example, when you first started to walk. You didn’t just stand up and start doing it. First you crawled. Then you sat up. Then one leg. Then a wobbly two legs, until you took your first step. During this process, you fell over a lot. However, you were reinforced by “balance” for doing the right thing. Consequently, you learned to walk. So we are going to compile some “baby steps” just like you did when you first started walking. We are going to write these “steps” down on a piece of paper. These steps will make up our training plan.

When shaping behavior, we want to reinforce any slight movements our animals make in the right direction towards a final pre-defined behavior. This involves splitting our final behavior up into smaller learnable chunks. Think about your animal doing something in slow motion. When you watch behavior in slow mo you can really see all the small micro-movements that animals make.  Splitting rather than lumping involves considering all those small micro-movements. If our animals are having a challenging time understanding the direction you are trying to go, sometimes it pays to see if you can reinforce even micro movements in the right direction.

If you have finished everything in the lesson then great, click through to the quiz and I will see you in lesson nine!