Sunday, September 12, 2010

Changing Behaviors with Tricks

N is training his new bird Martin. Spoke with the boys about using "tricks" rather than "brute force" to modify behavior (of either animals or people). Repeating "No, Martin. Don't bite my watch " rarely works. Yet keeping him away from your watch solves the problem. I had a German Shepherd when I was a boy. I got him to seat when I yelled "seat" at him, but I was having a really hard time training to get up when I yelled "stand". Until I heard of a trick: wait for him to get up on his own, and as he was doing so, yell "stand". It worked like a charm! After a while he associated "stand" with getting up and would follow my instructions :-).

What about people? Well, instead of lecturing someone about eating less, how about not having junk food around and serving small healthy portions in dinner plates? Oh, yes, and staying busy avoids the eating to fight boredom problem. No need for lectures...

If a "behavior change" is all you are after, there is no need to get the person (or animal) to internalize some deep principle. Just make it easy for the to "do the right thing".

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