5GoToSea: Pt 8: Training with High Rates of Reinforcement

Resurgence and Regression: Understanding Extinction So You Can Master It

From a presentation given by Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz during the 2014 Five Go To Sea Conference cruise.

This is Part 8 of a 15 Part series.

Part 1: The Elevator Question
Part 2: The Translation to Horses: Is Personality Expressed or Suppressed?
Part 3: Unraveling the Regression Mess
Part 4: Extinction and Shaping
Part 5: Extinction Reveals The Past
Part 6: Accidental Extinction
Part 7: Emotions
Part 8: Training With High Rates Of Reinforcement

If you have not yet read the previous articles, I suggest you begin with Part 1.
Part 8: Training With High Rates Of Reinforcement

Raising Criteria
In a successful shaping session with horses it can seem as though they never stop eating.  That doesn’t mean that the criteria are never raised.  Quite the contrary.

In a good shaping session the next criterion you’re going to shift to is already occurring a high percentage of the time BEFORE you make that the new standard.

Nikita grown ups editedSuppose I’m working on having my horse stand politely next to me in the behavior I call: “grown-ups are talking please don’t interrupt”.  My horse is keeping his head consistently positioned so he is looking straight ahead.  I’ve decided that now I also want him to have his ears forward.  That’s a great goal, but if I abruptly stop clicking for good head position because the ears are back, guess what I’ll get – more pinned ears.  Why?  Because I’m frustrating my horse, and that emotion is expressed through pinned ears.

If I frustrate him too much, I’ll also get him swinging his head, nudging my arm, pawing etc. – all the behaviors that I thought I had extinguished as I was building my polite “grown-ups” behavior.

Using Resurgence
What is the solution?  I could begin by separating out ears from other criterion.  Every time I see this horse with his ears forward, click, I’ll reinforce him.  If I’m walking past his stall and he puts his ears forward as I go by, click, he’ll get a treat. Pretty soon I’ll see that my presence is triggering ears forward.  I’ve made it a “hot” behavior.

So now if I withhold the click in grown-ups, I’m likely to get a resurgence of the “hot” behaviors. I’m still using extinction, but I’ve set my horse up for success.  The behavior that is going to pop out is the one I’ve made “hot”, namely ears forward.

As Jesús kept saying: you have to understand extinction in order to master it.

Shaping with What is Already There
In fact, I probably won’t even shift my focus to ears forward until they already occurring at least some of the time.

I’m going to want my horse to stand in grown ups with his ears forward. That’s the goal, but at first, I’ll be happy if he simply takes his nose away from my treat pockets.  As I click him for keeping his head directly between his shoulders, some variability is going to come into the overall behavior.  Sometimes he’ll have his head slightly higher, or lower, his ears forward or back.  Initially I may be so busy monitoring the orientation of his head, I won’t even notice what he is doing with his ears.  But as his head position stabilizes and becomes more consistent, I’ll be able to take in more of the variations.

I’ll become increasingly aware of what he is doing with his ears.  If they are almost always pinned, there’s no point in making that the next criterion.  I’ll be surfing a long extinction wave before ears forward pops out.  In fact for something like ears, the more frustrated he becomes, the less likely they are to go forward.

Instead I’ll wait until his ears are popping forward frequently before I make that the clickable moment.  I’ll be withholding the click for a second or two while I wait for his ears to move.  My horse won’t be perceiving the event as anything negative.  The click will shift seamlessly to the new criterion.  That slight moment of extinction as I withhold the click causes my horse to surf through current “hot” behaviors. I’m using resurgence, but in a way that sets the horse up to have success build on success.

Coming soon: Cues and Extinction

Please note: If you are new to clicker training and you are looking for how-to instructions, you will find what you need at my web sites:

theclickercenter.com                    theclickercentercourse.com

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