Positive Vs. Negative Reinforcement in Training – Three Birds and a Cloud

What’s the distinction between Optimistic and Detrimental Reinforcement? Is unfavourable reinforcement dangerous?

Samoyed pet studying to stroll on a leash.

That is, I believe, my primary pet peeve within the animal coaching communities. I’ve really seen people completely leap on others who proclaim to make use of unfavourable reinforcement, equating it to punishment – when, in truth, that’s not the case in any respect. (And, as an apart, I’m not pro-punishment.)

The parable:

Optimistic Reinforcement solely utilises treats and reward. You possibly can’t use punishment with optimistic reinforcement.

The reality:

Optimistic Reinforcement can contain “punishments” or so-called “unfavourable” reinforcers, however that is NOT unfavourable reinforcement.

Three horses ready on their optimistic reinforcement for approaching me – breakfast!

The straightforward definitions:

Optimistic Reinforcement includes INTRODUCING stimuli (reinforcers) into an atmosphere, reminiscent of a deal with, or a shock from an electrical coaching collar, to be able to strengthen a particular behaviour.

Detrimental Reinforcement includes strengthening a behaviour or response by REMOVING, stopping, or avoiding aversive (undesired) stimuli. It stems from B.F. Skinner’s concept of Operant Conditioning, and requires an extended rationalization.

A Detrimental Reinforcement Situation:

You’ve a fearful animal (let’s say a chook) who you’d like to coach to just accept human contact. Putting him on a playstand perch, you step again and pay attention to the gap the place he’s snug with you close by. Subsequent, you inch ahead to the precise threshold the place he shows discomfort. He slims his feathers and leans away, and he’s apprehensive now.

You wait. After a minute or two (maybe longer), the chook begins to loosen up, his feathers gently ruffling. Use your bridge – both your reward phrase of alternative (“good!”) or a clicker – and calmly step again to the unique level the place the chook was snug. That is the unfavourable reinforcement – you will have simply REMOVED one thing undesirable (you) from the chook’s atmosphere. Every time, you’ll be able to step just a bit nearer till the chook relaxes once more, thereby strengthening the calm response.

Finally, nevertheless, this methodology stalls out – it might solely take you to this point. That you must start introducing optimistic reinforcement.

Celestial Parrotlet

The Optimistic Reinforcement Situation:

The identical chook is sitting on his playstand perch after a handful of unfavourable reinforcement periods – and he’s gaining confidence close to you. In the present day, you will have a pocket stuffed with treats and a clicker to bridge the area of time between the specified behaviour (friendliness/calmness) and the reward, or “reinforcer.”

Stepping near the chook, you attain your hand out by his head and look ahead to him to indicate relaxed physique language. As he begins to preen, you click on your clicker and provide a deal with. He accepts.

You’ve launched a deal with into the state of affairs. That is optimistic reinforcement. You rewarded his calmness with you close by, and he’s prone to provide the identical behaviour later to hunt extra. He associates you with that meals now.

However wait. I discussed that punishment can also be optimistic reinforcement! How is that this doable?

The parable:

Optimistic is synonymous with “good,” and unfavourable with “dangerous.”

The reality:

Within the case of coaching, optimistic and unfavourable basically seek advice from the addition and elimination of “issues” from an atmosphere.

It drives me a bit batty when trainers and homeowners speak about solely utilizing “optimistic” reinforcement, when, in truth, they imply that they use feel-good coaching strategies (and this isn’t to bash that – I personally veer extra this manner when coaching canine and horses, and at all times with birds).

Utilizing unfavourable reinforcement to tame our Cockatiel

The Optimistic Reinforcement Situation, Half Two:

You’re standing subsequent to your chook on his playstand – however realise you don’t have treats for at present’s session. Rapidly, you duck out of the room to seize some, however your chook doesn’t like this. He begins to scream.

Mid-shriek, you dart again in and squirt him with the spray bottle you at all times have useful, shouting, “NO.”

He shuts up. You simply efficiently used two optimistic reinforcers (verbal, and the water) to bolster his screaming once you go away him.

**As a facet word, don’t squirt or shout at your chook! One of the simplest ways to deal with that state of affairs is to attend the screaming out. Return to the room solely when the screaming ends, otherwise you’re simply instructing the chook that it takes X many shrieks to summon you.**

If you wish to learn extra, strive

And there you will have it, people, the actual distinction between optimistic and unfavourable reinforcement. To sum it up: Is unfavourable reinforcement dangerous? By no means! Is optimistic reinforcement higher? It’s as much as you to resolve which is greatest to your state of affairs. Every has its personal vital place in coaching.

And as a slight apart, I’d personally be cautious of any coach who misuses the phrases. These with backgrounds in behavioural psychology will perceive how you can use them and their related strategies correctly – and that’s who you need instructing you!

Any tales of your individual unfavourable reinforcement coaching adventures? I’m on a campaign to banish the (heh) unfavourable view of unfavourable reinforcement!

Parrotlet “Ptak” modelling his pin feathers

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