Behavior multiplies (video)

Behavior multiplies. Let me explain what this means. 

When you have a well-designed shaping program that is appropriate for your learner, behavior change can happen exponentially. 

Imagine you are teaching your horse (or dog or other critter) to walk next to you without a leash or lead rope. 

On the first day, you may start with a very small criteria, clicking and treating when you and the horse walk together for one step. 

By the end of the second day, you’re practicing three steps at a time. 

On the third day, you’re surprised to discover that you and the horse can easily walk ten steps together. And, by day four, you two are waltzing around the arena for 30 steps for a single click and treat.

Notice how your progress grew. It didn’t take 30 days to get to 30 steps.

Training tip #1: Don’t dismiss small behavior changes 

Many people get discouraged when they have to start with very small steps. 

The person has huge dreams and, instead, their trainer is telling them to click and treat when their young horse walks with them for one step. 

It’s hard to see how a single step turns into taking your horse for a 10-mile hike.

Instead, if you embrace the idea that behavior multiples, you can celebrate small achievements. 

Small steps may seem small. However, you’re building a framework and teaching prerequisite skills so that behavior can multiple later on. 

Training tip #2: Start with success

When teaching a new behavior, many people pick a starting point that is too hard for their horse or other animal. A really simple starting point seems like a waste of time. 

However, if you pick a starting point that is too difficult, your horse (or other animal) may be hesitant or make errors. You will probably have to spend time fixing things later on. 

Instead, pick a starting point that is small but achievable. Once your horse can perform this step, you can easily move to the next step, then the next step, then the next step. 

If you can produce confident and correct behavior early on, and if you have a well-designed shaping plan, your learner’s behavior will multiply as you progress. 

Learn more with Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz

The idea that “behavior multiples” was popularized by a behavior analyst named Dr. Ogden Lindsley.

In December, I hosted Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz for a webinar about Dr. Lindsley’s work.

During the webinar, we talked about this idea that “behavior multiplies,” why you shouldn’t milk a chicken, and much more. 

Here’s a short clip about the idea that “behavior multiplies.” 

Did you enjoy this snippet?

You can watch the full webinar for free on the Behavior Explorer website

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