Stimulus Control (CAAWT conference notes)
My notes from Jesus Rosales-Ruiz's Talk "Don't Fight Extinction" (CAAWT Conference 2022). And below these notes, a small training victory for me!
BTW there were more examples in JRR's presentation. I didn't illustrate all of them.
I had started watching this conference video at the same time that I was packing a shop order.
I was seated at my computer table, attaching dog pins to backing cards - an activity I usually do at a different table. (BTW, I took these handwritten notes later, on a second viewing).
Whenever I pack dog pins at my usual other table, Mambo my cat has a habit of jumping up onto the table and he gets in the way, rubbing his face against my hand and my table stuff, meowing at me, sitting or standing on my pins and supplies. I literally have to stop doing what I am doing and talk to him or pet him. I have inadvertently reinforced this behavior more times than I can count, so the only solution I seem to have left is to call Mambo out of my office, give him a treat-dispensing ball, run back to my office and shut the door. This is the only way I can get orders packed.
[pic on the left: there is a black fluffy cat tail swishing those pins back and forth across the table]
This time, when I was packing dog pins and watching this CAAWT video, Mambo got onto my desk and walked back and forth in front of the screen, in a very annoying way. Usually, I can figure our the function of these behaviors fairly easily (it’s either treats or petting) but this time, his body language was different. He seemed agitated and I was guessing that his behaviors were cued by my hands doing the same movements and making the same sounds as when I pack orders at the other table. Honestly, I don’t know what Mambo wanted exactly. I assumed he was saying STOP DOING THAT AND PAY ATTENTION TO ME.
Even when Mambo went to lie down in his bed (on the same table next to my computer), he couldn’t relax. He remained alert, staring, claws out and in, his tail twitching up and down.
I didn't have a clear plan, but I was aware that I needed to change the stimulus conditions somehow, thanks to this presentation by Jesus Rosales-Ruiz!
GOAL BEHAVIOR: Mambo relaxing/asleep in his bed so I can continue working.
STIMULUS CONDITIONS (multiple cues):
My hands picking up a dog pin,
removing rubber backs from pin,
picking up a card,
pressing dog pin into card on top of styrofoam (POP! sound)
flipping pin over, attaching backs onto the pin
placing card to the side on the table
picking up another pin… rinse repeat.
Sound of JRR’s voice on the YouTube video.
REINFORCER: Stop doing all of the above? Petting? (He had already had treats)
What I did:
I did not touch any of my pins/supplies. I kept my hands still.
When Mambo was in his bed, alert, tail twitching, I turned down the volume of this video
When Mambo started to relax (tail not twitching, eyes softening), I petted him.
When he relaxed a bit more, I petted him some more.
When his head was on the bed, and seemed more relaxed, I picked up a dog pin. I put it down on the table. Paused. Mambo was still relaxed, I petted him. Waited.
I removed the rubber backs from the pin. Put these down. Petted Mambo. Waited.
I picked up a backing card. Placed this on the table. Paused. Petted Mambo. Waited.
I picked up the dog pin, pressed this into the card (POP! sound). Stopped. Petted Mambo. Waited..
Then I attached the backs to the pin… petted Mambo...
Mambo went to sleep and I was able to continued packing my pin orders with no interruptions. I even turned up the video volume a bit more.
Even though I couldn’t change the context, I was able to change the stimulus conditions (MY behaviors) so that’s what I did. I had basically split my “actions" into increments, and each time, reinforcing Mambo with OK I STOP NOW AND PET YOU.
[Adorable puddle of black fluff ]