The Definition of Behaviour

Antecedant Behaviour Consequence

As mentioned from the outset, at ParrotTrainingSchool.Com everything we will be learning is based on the science of behaviour and not just my personal opinion. The laws of behaviour apply reagrdless if we are aware of them or not. Much like a child who is unaware of the laws of gravity they are still bound by them and they do not simply float up in the air! When learning to train your parrot to either perform tricks on cue or solve problem behaviours like biting or screaming, we are essentially attempting to modify their behaviour using the laws of behavioural science. This is an extremely important concept to understand and most people tend to focus on the symptoms of the behaviour (constructs) rather than the behaviour itself.

An example of this could be my parrot is “aggressive”.  While this makes sense in the sentence it is still a construct and can mean many things to different people and this is why when it comes to training we need to be very specific in terms of the behaviour we are trying to modify or change or teach.

So if we want to deal with the problem of this so called “aggressive” behaviour we need to clearly define what exactly the bird is doing i.e. what behaviours is it demonstrating. Staying with the aggression problem, our observations may tell us that when approached, the bird lunges forward at you, or paces up and down on its perch rubbing its beak with eyes pinning.

These are behaviours that we can physically see and then consequently attempt to deal with and modify.

IT IS EXTREMLEY IMPORTANT TO LEARN TO OBSERVE YOUR PARROT AND BE SURE THAT YOU ARE DESCRIBING THE “BEHAVIOUR” AND NOT THE SYMPTOMS OR THE SCIENTIFIC TERM CONSTRUCTS!

The next important thing to understand is that the science tells us that “Behaviour has Function”

This means that the animal or bird emitting the behaviour is doing it for a reason that is of benefit to itself. The science also tells us that if the consequence or outcome from emitting the behaviour is favourable to the bird/animal emitting the behaviour then the chances of the bird doing that behaviour again is likely to increase. Eg if a person tries to pick up a bird who is napping or just does not want to be disturbed and the bird bites and this causes the person to go away and leave the bird alone, this will increase the chances of the bird biting next time it does not want to be disturbed as biting served the function of making the person leave the bird alone, as this was the birds intention.

Conversely if the outcome/consequence or function of an action or behaviour was not favourable to the bird/animal or any living being for that matter emitting the behaviour then the chances of that behaviour being emitted again will decrease. E.g. If you touched a hot oven the consequence of the pain of the burn would cause you to not want to touch the oven again.

It is also important to understand that the behaviour itself does not have to be enjoyable or favourable BUT the consequence of doing the behaviour must be favourable if your want the behaviour to increase. An example of this is somebody working in a job the hate; they keep going back because of the pay check they receive at the end of the week. The Behaviour “work” has the Function “pay check”.

From a training point of view it is important to understand two very important characteristics of effectively delivered consequences. These are 1) Contingency – which is the relationship or dependency of the behaviour and the consequence and 2) Contiguity – which is the closeness or timing with which the consequence follows the behaviour. In other words if the reward follows too long after a behaviour then the animal will have difficulty associating the reward with the behaviour. If the consequence is delivered inconsistently at first then the animal will have trouble linking the two events

I strongly suggest that you practice observing your bird and try and identify the functions that their certain behaviours serve for your particular bird. Observation skills are another extremely important activity that you will need to perfect to become a good trainer!

If you would like to delve further into this topic I suggest visiting www.behaviorworks.org

 

 

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