Friday, July 07, 2006

Train up your spouse (or child or students).

As part of Irk's ongoing mission to repackage the NY Times, this article has been atop the most-emailed list for several days now, so it seemed only fitting to link it here. Its topic is how the techniques of animal training can similarly be used to teach domestic tricks to a spouse--things like tossing dirty clothes in the hamper, or ceasing to nag. Most of what the author credits to animal trainers is also pretty basic to psychologists, and incredibly useful not just in the home. Most well run classrooms, for instance, employ many of the recommendations. Among the techniques: 1) Use praise to recognize desired behavior, even behavior that is only sort of close, thereby shaping approximations into the desired behavior. 2) Negative attention is a form of reinforcement, so ignore undesirable behaviors. 3) Provide displacement activities that take an individual away from undesirable behaviors. They seem obvious, but run counter to our human impulse to, say, respond to that pointless fury with a fury of our own. Thanks to Deepa, Kellie, and Gregg for the discussion over drinks.


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