Friday, August 27, 2010

Training Humans Like Dogs

Some years back, I co-authored a small book on eradicating street drug markets which got a kind review from Mark Kleiman, who was then teaching at the Kennedy School of Public Policy at Harvard.

Imagine my surprise then, to find this little video in my inbox this morning. It's of Mark Kleiman talking about his new book, entitled When Brute Force Fails.

Kleiman's basic thesis is that for too long we, as a society, have erred on the side of severity which has been inconsistently applied.

What we need to do, says Kleiman, is provide consistent and immediate consequences. If we do that, we will both reduce crime and put fewer people in prison.

Does this sound like the core tenants of dog training?

It should.

When you are trying to end self-reinforcing behavior, aversive training works quite quickly, provided it is consistent and assured -- a point I made on this blog in an earlier post entitled "The Radical Notion of Consequences.

If you are interested in crime, law enforcement and public policy, I can pretty much guarantee that When Brute Force Fails will be a very good read. Check it out next time you are at a bookstore or library, or order it directly from Amazon.


Seahorse said...

Lots of interesting ideas here, but as a lay person I'm still left with a lot of questions and concerns. I like what he says about who needs to be incarcerated. Bag guys? You bet! Smoke a doobie and go to jail? Seriously, America? But, I wonder about the "average" criminal, if there is such a thing, and whether they have personality flaws that drive them to act first, without regard to ANY consequences, no matter how swift or consistent. Is crime more impulsive than opportunistic? I don't know. I imagine it's a mixture of both, but what is the alchemy?

Dogs are easier, for sure. Understand one, you pretty much understand them all. They generally want to please, whereas humans...not so much!


an American in Copenhagen said...

I think Americans need to stop looking at prisons as a way to punish people and start looking at them as ways to stop people from commiting another crime. The two are not the same thing!

smartdogs said...

Interesting book - I'll definitely be ordering it.

Seahorse, while I agree that most dogs are eager to please as a professional trainer I have met several who were not. And in my experience, canine personalities are nearly as diverse as human personalities. They're just less complex and therefore easier to understand.

Seahorse said...

Smartdogs, I well over-simplified, but did so advisedly to make a point. Of course not every single dog wants to please, but the vast majority do, IMO. And, while there are many different personalities, I feel understanding dogs is reasonably straight-forward, unlike humans who, to my mind, are much more likely to be all over the proverbial page. I'm far from an expert dog trainer, but as a professional horse trainer I think there are similarities in training challenges. In all, I'd rather be training animals than humans, which is why I decided to never have kids of my own. I do train others' kids, though, and when they get cranky, I send them HOME! (G)

Seahorse ;)

Viatecio said...

So I can openly support concealed carry here since it gives an immediate and consistent consequence to those who would do harm to others in society?

I have yet to see blood running in the streets of my fair city where the instigator was someone responsible enough to handle and carry a concealed weapon.

Unfortunately, the gangs, drive-by's, idiots and random gunfire have taken too many lives already...this has got to stop.

Just my thoughts on the matter.

On another note, what does everyone think of the red-light cameras? Immediate consequences, good results (lowered crash rates at intersections)...but not well-like by some people. Heath OH pooped a brick over them, kicked out the mayor who lobbied for them, and turned them "off" in such a way that they could still record but not issue tickets...and the numbers of speeders and redlight runners skyrocketed.

Just trying to do some thinking on laws that are already available to the people, some of whom support them and others do not seem to share that sentiment...