Karen Pryor’s book Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training explains the fundamentals of behavior change. And these methods are effective whether the subject is a dog, a dolphin or your neighbor, Larry.
The main lesson for getting people to do what you want is that positive reinforcement — rewarding behavior you like — is king. Whether it’s with a smile, a cookie or a bribe, rewards work.
But what about getting rid of behaviors you don’t like? This can be far trickier. Pryor lays out the 8 methods that you can use to stop bad behavior.
Method 1: “Shoot the animal.” In our case, we don’t mean that literally. It means firing an employee or dumping a partner. It works, but it’s extreme.
Method 2: Punishment. (Everybody’s favorite, in spite of the fact that it almost never really works.)
Method 3: Negative reinforcement. (Removing something unpleasant when a desired behavior occurs.)
Method 4: Extinction, letting the behavior go away by itself.
Method 5: Train an incompatible behavior. (This method is especially useful for athletes and pet owners.)
Method 6: Put the behavior on cue. (Then you never give the cue. This is the dolphin trainer’s most elegant method of getting rid of unwanted behavior.)
Method 7: “Shape the absence”; reinforce anything and everything that is not the undesired behavior. (A kindly way to turn disagreeable relatives into agreeable relatives.)
Method 8: Change the motivation. (This is the fundamental and most kindly method of all.)
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