Training is going on all around us all the time.
So too is bad behavior.
Most of the time, however, bad behavior is put in check, not by rewards but by aversive consequences.
These two men will stop fighting pretty quickly once the police come, and they will not be quick to fight again after the police haul them to the station, book them, and they have to explain to their spouse, children, and boss why they have to go to court, pay a fine, and spend the weekend in jail.
No policeman ever said: "We have to know why they are fighting in order to change their behavior"
No policeman ever said: "It will take a long time to teach them not to fight."
Police and the criminal justice systems know something; Fighting is a self-rewarding behavior.
Sometimes it feels good to get the adrenaline up and pop someone in the nose.
And yet, it doesn't happen too often in our daily lives because time and experience has shown us that staying calm and walking away results in a better long-term outcome almost every time.
When did we learn that? Was it second grade when we were pulled down to the principals office and our parents were mortified because we were suspended for a day?
That didn't take? Then the penalties got higher until they did. How much do you want to lose? Your allowance? The car? Your freedom? Your job? Your future?
Our entire legal system swings on penalties to stop self-rewarding behavior, whether they are penalties for simple assault or robbery, sexual assault or embezzlement.
Why is our legal system focused on penalties?
Because they work.
Rewards are great for encouraging people to show up early, study hard, and help paint the gym, but none of those behaviors are internally self-rewarding, which is why they have to be externally self-rewarding.
How do you stop internally self-rewarding behavior, and how do you stop it pretty damn quick?
Punishment. The "P" word.
And does punishment work? What if it physically hurts these two men? What if it psychology damages them or their community? Is there a better way?
Those last three questions are good ones to ask, but they are subordinate to the FIRST question: Does it work?
Did having the police show up, book these guys, and send them to court and jail (while taking a deep dive into their wallets) discourage them from rushing out to fight again?
Yep. That works. Significant memorable consequences are remembered and shape future behavior.
That's why punishment is the core response used to stop self-rewarding anti-social behaviors all over the world.
But that's not how the modern dog trainer does it, is it?
They suggest we try to distract these two men with something shiny or fun. Perhaps a girl, or a martini, or a five dollar bill.
They suggest we exercise these two men more so they are too tired to fight.
They suggest letting them fight and as soon as one slows down and is not swinging quite as hard as the other one, that we jump in and say "what a good boy" and toss them an Oreo cookie to encourage more of that kind of behavior.
They suggest turning our back on them and just ignore the fighting.
They suggest having one work the night shift, and the other the day shift, so they never run into each other.
They suggest that we try to figure out why they are fighting. Maybe they need to be socialized more? Maybe it's a medical thing? Maybe they're bored or its a dominance thing? Have they both been neutered? Is it smell? Are they resource guarding? Is a woman in heat nearby?
But you know what they never quite get around to suggesting? Punishment.
And you know what they never quite get around to asking? Did the punishment work?
Ask the trick trainer how to stop a dog barking at every squirrel it sees through a window, and it's either "pull the blinds" or "teach a down stay," or my absolute favorite: "teach the dog to bark on cue and then never give the cue."
Putting a bark collar on the dog is not suggested. That's too easy. Where's the 50-hours in training at $20 an hour in that?
But does it work?
Like new money.
- Related Post: The Radical Notion of Consequences