Final Fiesta Paper
For my final fiesta paper, I decided to train and write about my boyfriend’s family
dog, Teddy. Teddy is a full size poodle; basically a giant fluff ball that likes the taste of beer.
It was discovered that Teddy liked the taste of beer a couple years ago at a family party
when an entire can was accidentally knocked off the table. Since Teddy is a dog, his initial
reaction was to smell and taste the foreign liquid on the ground, then lap it all up with his
long pink tongue once he figured out he liked the taste. I soon realized that his love for beer
was an unlearned reinforcer(a stimulus, event, or condition that is a reinforcer, though not as
a result of pairing with another reinforcer).
Now that I knew what Teddy’s unlearned reinforcer was, what behavioral
contingency (The occasion for a response (behavior), the response (behavior), and the
outcome of the response (behavior)) would be the cutest and most effective? I quickly
decided a basic reinforcement contingency (The immediate response-contingent presentation
of a reinforcer resulting in an increased frequency of that response)would be the most
effective;however it wasn’t the only contingency in effect.
Teddy would need an unconditioned stimulus: A stimulus that produces the
unconditioned response without previous pairing with another stimulus. The U.S. would be
the beer itself, but what would Teddy’s unconditioned response (an unlearned response
elicited by the presentation of an unconditioned stimulus) be? For ease sake, we’ll just say
that his response was drooling. I don’t know many dogs that don’t drool and it’s pretty
common for mammals to salivate when in the presence of a favorite food or drink. Next,
Teddy needed a conditioned stimulus (A stimulus that has acquired its eliciting properties
through previous pairing with another stimulus). Since beer was usually distributed in cans
at the house, a silver beer can would be Teddy’s cue that beer was in front of him.And the
conditioned response(a learned response elicited by the presentation of a conditioned
stimulus? Teddy could smile when he wanted to; now my goal was to train him to
specifically smile for beer.
Pairing the US (beer) with the CS (beer can) and the UR (salivation or drooling) with
the CR (smiling) is called a pairing procedure (pairing of a neutral stimulus with a reinforcer
or aversive condition) and is shown here:
Taste of beer
No taste of beer
In the years since the discovery that Teddy the poodle liked beer, it’s been clear that
beer is an unlearned reinforcer for him and that he would beg for it, but in this case I
wanted to chain his list of requirements for beer together in a process called a behavioral
chain (a sequence of stimuli and responses. Each response produces a change in the
environment that acts as a discriminative stimulus or operandum as the next response.)Teddy
learned how to beg, but I wanted to give him the appearance of sophistication when asking
for his favorite beverage. Since I wanted to shape Teddy’s behavior and different outcomes
were available, I also decided to use variable-outcome shaping (shaping that involves a
change in the value of the reinforcer or aversive condition, as performance more and more
closely resembles the terminal behavior).
To shape with reinforcers, I first had to identify the initial behavior (Behavior that
resembles the terminal behavior along some meaningful dimension and occurs with at least
minimal frequency); this was looking at the can. For me to know I had Teddy’s attention his
initial behavior was to look at the can and this behavior was reinforced until it occurred
frequently. By presenting the can to Teddy, his initial behavior would be looking at the can;
that behavior would be reinforced when I poured out a small amount of beer onto the floor
for him to lap up.
Once looking at the can was occurring frequently, I next reinforced the intermediate
behavior (Behavior that more closely approximates the terminal behavior). Since I wanted
Teddy to have a dignified request for beer, I decided a dog that could not hold still and sit
politely was not deserving of beer. Thus, the intermediate behavior became sitting
patiently. This response was then reinforced until it occurred frequently. Finally, to receive
the beer that he so coveted, Teddy needed to smile. As said before, Teddy knew how to
smile before this experiment, but he needed to pair the response of smiling with the
reinforcer of beer to complete the contingency. Figure 3 shows this behavioral chain.
Ted has no
Initial: Looks at
look at can
Looks at can
Now shifting our attention to another way of looking at things, we can’t forget about
discrimination training procedure (reinforcing or punishing a response in the presence of one
stimulus and extinguishing it or allowing it to recover in the presence of another stimulus).
S : Can is in
Ted has beer
Teddy has no
SΔ:Can is not
Teddy has no
in sight and
I wanted Teddy to discriminate between commands so using discrimination
training, Teddy learned that the SDor discriminative stimulus (a stimulus in the presence of
which a particular response will be reinforced or punished) was the sight of the can and the
verbal prompt of “Would you like a beer?” When these two stimuli occurred and Teddy
smiled, he was rewarded with beer. However when Ted smiled during the S-delta (a
stimulus in the presence of which a particular response will not be reinforced or punished)
or when a beer can was not in sight and there was no prompt, he would receive nothing.
Finally, what is Teddy’s motivating operation (a procedure or condition that affects
learning and performance with respect to a particular reinforcer or aversive condition)?
Besides the fact that he liked the taste of the beer, Teddy was also munching on snacks with
the rest of the household that day. To go with the beer, there were a lot of salty delicious
snacks like popcorn, Chex mix, pretzels, and chips; in case you didn’t put two and two
together, all of these foods have one thing in common- salt. As we learned in chapter nine,
deprivation (withholding a reinforcer increases relevant learning and performance) and
satiation(consuming a substantial amount of a reinforcer temporarily decreases relevant
learning and performance) can affect relevant learning and performance great. Since the
snacks were salty, we can assume Teddy became thirsty. This deprivation of hydration
made relevant learning faster for Teddy and the process is shown in the next figure.
Ted has no
Ted has beer
has eaten salty
snacks for the
Thanks to behavior analysis, Teddy learned to use his cute talent of smiling to get
what he wanted, beer. His motivating operation was that he was thirsty, and then we
helped him chain events of behavior with reinforcement over and over again. He was
reinforced when he looked at the can, when he sat patiently and finally when he smiled. He
was reinforced only when the SD (can) was in sight, and reinforcement was withheld when
the can was not in sight (the S-delta).
Although this class has been aversive the majority of the semester, I have learned a
lot. I now reward myself daily to stay productive. I use the word aversive hourly. I hope to
remember these principles in the future now that I see how relevant and useful they are.