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Current time:0:00Total duration:7:20

Operant conditioning: Shaping

Video transcript

if someone were to say I want to learn to do a headstand you might think of the headstand as some sort of activity or behavior that they're going to learn through practicing headstands but I want to emphasize a certain word in the sentence and that's learn oftentimes when we think about learning we think of things like learning facts for instance if I were to tell you to learn that the capital of Ohio is Columbus if you didn't know that you might learn it by writing it down over and over and say okay Columbus Ohio Columbus Ohio or maybe you'll make a flashcard with Ohio on one side and Columbus on the other and that's the type of learning where you're learning facts but learning a headstand there really isn't any no cards or flashcards or notes involved it's more a matter of practicing the behavior of performing a headstand but if you're like me perform a headstand isn't something that I can do naturally someone who can perform a headstand typically learn to do it through practice and that learning through practice idea has a specific name in operant conditioning and the term for this type of learning is shaping and shaping is something that you're already very familiar with but maybe you've never heard the term before the idea is shaping is that you successively or gradually reinforce behaviors that lead up to or approximate the target behavior so you successively or another word for this is gradually reinforce behaviors that approximate or come close to the target behavior so in other words shaping isn't just performing a headstand it's that process of learning to perform the headstand which we're going to go through in a minute but the important thing to consider is what is the target behavior before you can shape a behavior you have to determine what's the target behavior so in this example we're going to use the headstand so let's say this is you here you are and ultimately your goal or target behavior is to perform a headstand so we're going to learn this successively or gradually by reinforcing behaviors that lead up to the headstand so maybe you're going to like a yoga class to learn this and the first thing we want to reinforce is maybe just showing up to class you took the time to block out time in your schedule to get dressed and drive over to this yoga studio you know there's a lot of things and factors involve with just showing up the class and showing up the class is if you think about it a very important aspect of learning to perform a headstand at least if you're taking a yoga class but after a while that's not going to be enough obviously because your goal is to perform a headstand and just showing up the class isn't going to make you learn it necessarily so eventually that's not going to be enough and so next you want to reinforce maybe putting your hands on the mat and told this position is called a Down Dog so we're going to reinforce putting your hands on the mat and of course there's going to be a several factors involved here like making sure your legs are straight and your arms are positioned in the right place and your shoulders are positioned in the correct spot there's a lot of factors you think about it and just putting your and just put contorting your body in this position and so you want to learn to do this properly so you don't have any injuries and so you can ultimately be able to perform your target behavior of doing a headstand but again eventually this isn't going to be enough because the goal here is to perform a headstand so next you're going to reinforce the behavior that approximates or comes even closer to a headstand and let's say in this case you're going to reinforce placing your forearms on the mat so now that you're in this position where your feet are on the mat and your elbows are down and your forearms are on the mat that's pretty close to performing a headstand at least it's closer than just showing up to class but next you're going to have to reinforce the behavior let's say lifting your legs up in the air which will lead to a headstand so eventually the forms in the mat are no longer going to be reinforced and we'll say you want to reinforce lifting your legs up in the air which will lead to the headstand and so this is the behavior we want to reinforce so lifting legs and this is actually the target behavior but as you can see this guy didn't just show up to class and perform the headstand they had to gradually or successively learn to perform the target behavior now I've been putting green checkmarks here to represent reinforcement and reinforcement it can be a physical object like money or prizes but it can also be something that's intangible like praise for instance hearing the yoga instructors say you know great job or you're doing a good job keep it up praise is also a reinforcer but I drew this out because I want to represent the process of shaping shaping isn't just performing the behavior it's gradually reinforcing behaviors that lead up to or approximate the target behavior in shaping is a process of learning that isn't just used in humans it's also used in animals and that's how animal trainers have a job their whole job revolves around shaping the behaviors of animals so when you see that seal balance of ball and its nose it didn't just naturally do that it learned it through the animal trainer successively reinforcing the behaviors that lead up to bouncing a ball and its nose the same process has occurred when you see people who show you their dog who can shake hands or roll over on command the dog didn't learn it through taking notes or reading a book on rolling over it learned it by being successively reinforced until it ultimately performed the target behavior that their owner had in mind so this is shaping