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KellyAssauer
03-31-2014, 03:48 PM
The scenario below is really interesting to me because I can 'see' this behavior fitting my main character. If this could happen, then I can write this. It fits my character perfectly, but I'm completely unsure if it's possible!:

This weekend I watched a dog do tricks for a biscuit, and it got me thinking about Skinner, and humans, and behavioral conditioning.

The first time a dog smells a biscuit, the dog brain says: That smells good, I want it. So then the dog owner ‘teaches’ the dog to do tricks for this reward. I watched a dog owner put their dog through a series of simple tricks and the owner rewarded the dog for doing the tricks by giving the dog the biscuit/treat. Then, the dog owner handed a biscuit to a ten year old kid and the kid began to run the dog through the same series of tricks, except the kid was having too much fun making the dog do the tricks over and over again to the point that the dog lost interest.

The question that came to me was whether or not you could teach the dog to ignore the biscuit/treat? Could you ‘tease’ the dog with the biscuit/treat so much and not reward it - to the point where the dog would associate the smell/sight of the biscuit as not being a reward?

Say the dog gets free from the yard tomorrow and neighbor recognizes the dog. They happen to have a stash of dog biscuits, and grab some to go lure the dog. If the dog associates the smell of biscuits as a non-treat/false-alarm might the dog take one wiff and go: Oh that? I know that smell, just forget that, and walk away?

As I sat and watched the ten year old tease the dog and watched the dog lose interest in a ‘treat’ the question that came to me wasn’t so much about dogs, but whether or not I could apply this to humans?

Could a human be teased enough by a ‘treat’ that they never receive, that the human develops negative associations with something that is supposed to be a ‘good’ thing? Might such a trained person eventually learn to avoid this stimulus altogether?

It sounds like avoidance behavior, but doesn’t avoidance behavior usually manifest when the person associates the task with something bad. IE: One might avoid public speaking because it makes them anxious. Public speaking is a task, it’s not exactly a treat.

What I’m wondering isn’t a question of whether or not you can train the animal to salivate at the sound of the bell (instead of salivating at the sight or smell of food) but can you train the animal not to salivate at all to a stimulus that should make them naturally salivate?

Love to hear your thoughts. =)

veinglory
03-31-2014, 05:58 PM
The biscuit is an unconditioned reinforcer related to a primary need so it takes something quite strong to abolish its power especially for a hungry dog. However if a certain person never "pays out" the dog can certainly learn to discriminate between people and refuse to do tricks for that person, or even take an interest in them.

SWest
03-31-2014, 06:22 PM
In your example, the dog interacts first with someone who "Plays Fair", then plays with someone who "Cheats" (does not pay out).

To cut off the game when an inducement is as strong as FOOD, the subject's brain has to be wired to play Tit For Tat. There can be some gender differences in how people play reciprocity games.

http://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?query=tit+for+tat&v%3Aproject=nlm-main-website

veinglory
03-31-2014, 06:40 PM
I read a study one that looked at willingness to look for a thrown balls with people who had various rates of "false throws". The dogs definitively took that into account.

KellyAssauer
03-31-2014, 06:41 PM
The biscuit is an unconditioned reinforcer related to a primary need so it takes something quite strong to abolish its power especially for a hungry dog. However if a certain person never "pays out" the dog can certainly learn to discriminate between people and refuse to do tricks for that person, or even take an interest in them.

This is exactly what I'm thinking.

Even if it is a primary need, if that stimulus never pays out... then the subject can be taught that the stimulus is fraudulent, and they should no longer react. This, to me, is a reinforced learned behavior.

One might observe their reaction and want to call it "denial" but is it really denial if it's a rote reaction? If it's behavior they were taught over and over again... then I'm not sure I see denial at all.

(denial being an unconscious defense mechanism characterized by refusal to acknowledge painful realities, thoughts, or feelings.)

In this example the learned behavior does become an unconscious reaction, but are they refusing to acknowledge a painful thought or reality?

It seems to me that causation has been reversed: in that they are acknowledging a painful reality (never get the biscuit) through their unconscious behavior (turning away has become a learned behavior and not a 'defense' mechanism).

But I'm just not sure...

=)

veinglory
03-31-2014, 07:00 PM
If it relates to a specific person it is stimulus discrimination (when A, B does not = C--when antecedent stimulus (see non-paying person), behavior (trick) does not equal consequence (biscuit)).

If it relates to all people it would be learned helplessness.

SWest
03-31-2014, 07:20 PM
...

Even if it is a primary need, if that stimulus never pays out... then the subject can be taught that the stimulus is fraudulent, and they should no longer react. This, to me, is a reinforced learned behavior.

...




The inducement (FOOD) is not faulty...it is the partner in the exchange who never pays out.*

If a child were raised by Cheaters, they may well encode that All People Cheat, and develop a plethora of trust/helplessness issues and inability to engage in any healthy relationships. This person may also develop issues surrounding their needs and how to acquire them (aberrant relationships to food, cleanliness, sex, etc.). It can be a lot of work for someone with this type of experience to learn how to develop discrimination for and relationships with Fair Players.

*I imagine an infant might withdraw and starve under extremely isolated circumstances, but most neglected/abused folks end up with Just Enough payout to keep them functional.


As opposed to someone raised by Fair Players (who finds out in kindergarten that the Cheaters are among us! :eek: ). This child still has to learn how to discriminate Cheaters from Fair Players, but they've got a giant leg up in their baseline experience of reciprocity.

Maxx B
03-31-2014, 07:30 PM
Drug and bomb sniffing dogs are trained to ignore food whilst on duty. So it can be done. Aversion therapy is used by some people to aid weight loss. A combination of constant reinforcement exercises and either imagining negative associations with junk food or hypnosis have been show to work in some people.
It does work, I had a severe and extremely unpleasant bout of food poisoning after eating a cheese and ham pizza, where the ham was off. Even the thought of ham on a pizza now makes me balk and or retch. It was my favorite food in the world. Luckily the incident didn't spoil all pizza, just ones with ham. What is strange is that I'm fine with cold ham on a sandwich or salad, it seems like the aversion / repulsion is just to that one specific food.

melindamusil
03-31-2014, 09:55 PM
I've known plenty of people who worked (usually minimum wage) jobs in fast food restaurants or bakeries, and who developed an aversion to the foods they served. Like, "I used to love eating cake with lots of frosting, but after I worked in XYZ bakery for a few months, I got so sick of it that now I can't go near it."

Justin K
04-01-2014, 08:10 AM
Humans often get teased when they think they're falling in love, and a lot of people learn to hate relationships altogether.

buirechain
04-01-2014, 05:35 PM
Between when I first read this thread and now I encountered something that seems relevant (in Michio Kaku's the Future of the Brain). He talks about experiments with mice where food is laid out but so are devices to deliver electrical shocks between the mice and the food. The mice end up paralyzed because they still see and smell the food and really want it but they also knew that going to get it would create a problem--so they never developed the aversion or the ability to ignore the food.

That said, the implication in the book (though no research is listed to back it up) is that the more complex the brain the less likely that kind of paralysis is to happen, but whether that's because of condition or because the brain is too smart to fall into such traps, I don't know.

veinglory
04-01-2014, 06:32 PM
It may also be that the mice were very food deprived. At which point any creature will experience a serious internal conflict in this situation.