We use the word “positive” to mean many different things—and muddy our waters of understanding as a result. In the behavioral sciences, in the strictest sense, the word positive means “something added in.” In positive reinforcement training, then, “positive” means “treat” or reinforce added within a setting to make a particular behavior more likely to [more…]
The world’s best animal trainers rely on one simple and profound principle: reward movement towards the behavior you want and ignore the rest. The method works with species from dolphins to goldfish, from tigers to spiders. And, of course, it holds for humans too. Given a functioning nervous system, any learner reinforced for success rather [more…]
It’s a helpless feeling. Looking up, just 50 feet away from getting back to my car, and seeing a pert parking attendant snap off a ticket, place it under my wiper with a flourish, and zip off, satisfied, in her little blue car. I had dutifully slotted three quarters—one hour’s worth—into the machine perhaps an [more…]
We couldn’t have picked a better day to say our last goodbyes to Piper. A cloudless, brilliant blue sky offered clear views of the jagged Maine coast in all directions. A slight wind gave the incoming tide just a bit of shimmer. And the sun warmed our skin without wilting our spirits….
What can a one-ton farm animal show us about the power of shared intelligence? Lior Zoref—and his many friends—have an idea. This week’s New Yorker magazine includes a piece that references Zoref’s TED Talk about the wisdom of crowds. In the presentation, Zoref demonstrates how groups access knowledge in a different way than individuals can. [more…]
I tend to resist the siren’s call of technology. Or at least I do my best to. Influenced by the writings of Neil Postman and Jerry Mander, I now see how we trumpet and embrace the benefits of new technologies without ever really taking into consideration the possible—and often certain—destructive consequences they radiate around them. [more…]
Marriage researcher John M. Gottman claims that he can predict with 94% accuracy which couples will last happily and which, sadly, will not. Studies seem to prove him right. What’s the magic variable, the crucial key? It’s not height or weight. Neither education nor wealth. Not even shared interests, well-synched sex drives, or similar diets [more…]
It’s easy to think about the benefits of setting up reinforcement for others’ behaviors. If I want the softball team to help each other stay focused, I offer my catcher praise when she returns to the bench after having taken a minute for a conference with her mentally-rattled pitcher. If a student catches himself using [more…]
My partner Melissa and I went to China Gourmet, one of our local tasty standbys, for dinner tonight. We were excited to see that Kenny, our favorite host had returned after a bit of a hiatus. He’s a tall, lanky young man, full of energy and honest enthusiasm. He’s also the lone white guy in [more…]
The waters of wisdom run deep within you. Draw from the well.