What questions will you ask in 2016?

One of my projects for this year is to read/re-read a behavior analysis textbook that is referred to as “The Blue Books.” I read large sections of The Blue Books during my time in graduate school, but I’ve never read the whole thing from cover-to-cover. I’m looking forward to reading the parts I haven’t read and reviewing the parts that I have read previously.

(If you’re inspired to follow along, you can pick up a digital copy for $12.50 from The Cambridge Center’s online store. If you know anything about textbooks, you know that price is a steal!)

An introduction to The Blue Books

The Blue BooksThe Blue Books were originally written in the 1960s by Dr. Israel Goldiamond and Dr. Donald Thompson. Dr. Goldiamond used them as the textbook for his two-quarter class sequence “Behavior analysis and programs” at the University of Chicago.

Although they certainly aren’t new, most of the information is still really relevant today.

The first half covers an introduction to the science of behavior, functional relations, and an in-depth look at the science and use of positive reinforcement. The second-half is all about stimulus control. In all, the text is over 1,000 pages.

The pages are packed full of information, some of which really takes some thinking to wrap your head around. So, it is going to be slow reading, but it should be interesting, and I’m certainly looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you here on the blog.

What are you teaching?

There are two quotes from Chapter 1 that caught my eye this past week and that I’d like to share with you. I hope you’ll spend some time thinking about each of them.

Goldiamond and Thompson have a really interesting paragraph where they discuss two different types of behavior change. The first is developing new behaviors, and the second is teaching the animal to do old behaviors in new contexts. Thinking about the difference between the two can change the way you think about training.

Now I’m going to cheat a bit….Because, you see, I attempted to read The Blue Books from cover-to-cover during the summer of 2014 (and didn’t actually get that far). But, I did write a blog post about these two different types of behavior change. So, if you want to read the full quote from the chapter and explore this subject further, you can hop on over and visit this blog post. (I also explain in that post how The Blue Books got their name.)

What questions are you asking?

Now, here is the gem I ran across that I really wanted to share with you.

Goldiamond and Thompson write the following:

“While many people consider science a way of gaining knowledge, it can also be considered a way of raising questions. Each discovery often generates new questions. People sometimes talk of a day in which everything has been discovered, or in which the unknown has been completely pushed back. This is equivalent to stating that we will some day reach some point when all possible questions will have been asked. This we consider highly unlikely.”

I often hear people new to animal training say that they want to learn everything there is to know about animal training. And, I sometimes meet so-called “experts” who claim to know everything there is to know about a particular training subject.

I find, however, that Goldiamond and Thompson’s view of science is also very applicable to animal training, whether you are training a dog, horse, rat, bird, cat, etc. Each time I learn more about training, discover a new idea, read more about a certain training concept, or figure out how a particular training procedure works, it often answers some of my questions about training. However, it often also raises even more questions!

In science (or in animal training!) -- Each discovery often generates new questions. Click To Tweet

This year, I hope that I learn lots more about behavior and training.

However, I hope this also raises even more questions that excite me and that make me want to learn even more. The interesting thing about questions, of course, is that once you reach a new point, there are new questions that you didn’t even consider before.

So, it is January 11th. New Years’ has come and gone. Many of us made resolutions and many of us have probably broken them already.

But don’t think about resolutions.

Instead, I want you to think about questions.

What questions are you asking currently about animal training or animal behavior? What do you hope you can explore with your animals this year, as you work toward different training goals? What puzzles are you excited about solving this year?

I hope that you have many questions for 2016. I hope that you are able to answer some of them this year. And, I really hope that by the end of this year you will have many more new questions!

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