Archive for the ‘Definitions’ Category

The Instant Expert

Friday, May 24th, 2013

I have a new post over on the Companion Bird World Blog … just a short one. Hop over and take a look.



Extinction Defined

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

One often hears about this procedure in connection with undesirable behaviors such as excessively loud vocalization by companion parrots. It is also a term that is often used incorrectly so here is a short discussion of extinction.

In operant training, the procedure of withholding the reinforcers that maintain a behavior.
Paul Chance – Learning and Behavior.

While this is fairly simple to understand there are a couple of challenges with the use of this procedure. First it requires that the trainer really knows what the reinforcers are that are maintaining a behavior. In addition to this the trainer needs control of those reinforcers and sometimes the reinforcers are not in our control, making the application of extinction just not possible.

There is one more term that is worth discussing here with extinction and that is the extinction burst.

A sudden increase in the rate of behavior during the early stages of extinction.
Paul Chance, Learning and Behavior.

This effect of the extinction procedure is one that can set the caretaker of the parrot up to end up reinforcing a higher level vocalization just because they cannot stand the extinction burst level and they reinforce the higher level by reacting to it. This reinforcement, because it is not delivered after every vocalization is what is called intermittent reinforcement. A term to be discussed in a future article. For now the important part of understanding intermittent reinforcement is that it builds behavior that is more resistant to extinction. This serves to make the effective application of an extinction procedure even more difficult.


Training and Behavior Terms – Punishment

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Welcome to the second in this series of short articles about training terminology. If you missed the first installment you can find it here.

All of the definitions used in this series are taken from “Learning and Behavior” by Paul Chance. Anyone who is interested in getting good solid information about behavior science should seriously consider purchasing a copy of this book.

Let’s take a look at one of the most emotive of all the behavior science terms and one that is probably the most misunderstood and sadly among the most common of strategies used for behavior change in our society.


The procedure of  providing consequences for a behavior that reduce the strength of that  behavior.
Learning and Behavior, Paul Chance.

Once again, like reinforcement, punishment is a procedure and not a tangible object or thing. It is the process of applying or removing a stimulus immediately after a behavior and observing that behavior reduce in strength or frequency in the future. What punishment is not is something the bird deserved or “had coming.” There is no judgment involved in punishment from the behavior perspective.

I have seen it written that if behavior reduces then punishment must be the procedure being used. This is not absolutely true and in a future article we will discover other procedures that while they may reduce a behavior they do not involve the use of punishment.

It is worth noting here that using punishment is a strategy that brings a number of unwanted side effects. These side effects not only undermine the relationship between bird and caregiver they also may have profound effects upon the bird and its future behavior.  In our hierarchy of choices of strategies for behavior change punishment falls well below reinforcement.

I hope you enjoy these short articles, if you have a term that you find confusing or would simply like better defined and explained please feel free to email me.

Keep soaring,

Training and Behavior Terms Defined

Monday, October 17th, 2011

As with all aspects of life, clear communication between  caregivers, trainers, and behaviorists is vitally important if we are all to help each other solve behavior problems with our birds. One tenet of clear  communication is the vocabulary used for such communications. To foster clear  communication I will be posting a series of short articles here that define and examine some of the most used and abused terms of behavior science. This will  not be a complete list, merely an attempt to improve all of our communication skills and through that improved communication develop our relationships with our birds through better training.

All of the definitions used in these articles will be taken from “Learning and Behavior” by Paul Chance. Anyone who is interested in getting good solid information about behavior science should seriously consider purchasing a copy of this book.

I will begin the series with a term that many people feel they completely understand. However, one only needs to monitor a few of the many Internet lists and forums to realize it is often misused.


The procedure of  providing consequences for a behavior that increase or maintain the strength of that behavior.Learning and Behavior, Paul Chance.

This single sentence embodies several important concepts that many people appear to either gloss over or misunderstand. First and perhaps most misunderstood is that reinforcement is a procedure and not a tangible thing or object. One often hears people say “I offered reinforcement …” Reinforcement cannot be offered like a peanut. It is the process of giving the bird a peanut immediately after a behavior and seeing a future increase or maintenance of that behavior. This is the second important point in this sentence; the process followed by the trainer/caregiver is only defined as reinforcement if, after the consequence is provided, the behavior it follows actually is maintained or increased. No matter what our intention reinforcement has only been used when one is able to observe its effect on future behavior.

Closely related to reinforcement is “Reinforcer.” This is not a term directly defined by Chance in his book, however I will write about Reinforcers and Punishers in a future article that addresses the term “Stimulus.”

I hope you enjoy these short articles, if you have a term that you find confusing or would simply like better defined and explained
please feel free to email me.

Keep soaring,