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Continuous vs. Variable Ratio Reinforcement for Flight

Discuss topics associated with teaching birds to fly. Training parrots recall flight, target flying, and other flying exercises.

Continuous vs. Variable Ratio Reinforcement for Flight

Postby Michael » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:35 am

I added up my stats from the 5 days I kept track of Kili's recall performance and wanted to share my findings:

Out of 5 days of training with motivation averaging at 3.6/5

Overall:
255/302 1st attempt recall 85%
37/302 2nd attempt recall 12%
10/302 didn't recall by 2nd attempt or didn't land on hand 3%

Overall at VR5:
61/70 1st attempt recall 87%
7/70 2nd attempt recall 10%
2/70 not recall within 2 calls 3%

Overall at FR1:
65/75 1st attempt recall 87%
8/75 2nd attempt recall 11%
2/75 not recall within 2 calls 2%


Several things stand out. First off, her recall response is very consistent across the different days and times of the session. It mostly ranges between 80%-90% which averages out to 85%. There are few outliers like 100% or 50%. If you look at the stats from each training session and the 85% overall, it makes perfect sense because most of the training session stats are the same. So it seems that at this point 85% (under perfect training conditions) is the best I can get out of her. I'd like to figure out how to improve this but that's another story.

The second thing that really stands out is that the overall rate of response at a continuous ratio of reinforcement (FR1, treat every recall) is identical to the rate of response at a variable ratio of reinforcement (VR5, randomly given treat 1 out of 5 recalls). It appears from my study that the ratio of reinforcement does not have an impact on rate of response in either a positive or negative manner. I can tell that she gets kind of pissed and screeches when she does a lot of flights without a treat so I try not to push it, however, she does continue responding to recalls when the rewards are intermittent no worse than when they are every time.

The difference is that the FR1 took 75 treats to accomplish while the VR5 only took 14. There is a trade off. With the VR5 it's more likely that she will get tired before she satisfies her hunger while with FR1 it's more likely that she will lose interest in food before tiring out. That's why I've generally preferred a ratio of VR3 and the other 157 recalls not represented as FR1 or VR5 were mostly VR3 but from the overall stats you can see that FR1, VR3, and VR5 yield about the same response.

Therefore, to me it seems that reinforcement schedule does NOT impact motivation. Of course if you take the ratio up too high it will either lead to extinction or aggressive response so I am by no means advocating not rewarding at all. However, between getting a treat every recall and every 5th recall (at a random point) seems no different. This does build a stronger resistance to extinction. A parrot exclusively trained at FR1 may stop responding if the reinforcement trickles off while the parrot trained with a varying interval knows to keep trying and that reinforcement will eventually come.

The moral of the story: using a variety of reinforcement schedules will build a resistance to extinction of behavior and allow a greater number of responses to be achieved with less reinforcement.

So if the ratio of reinforcement does not play a role in the rate of response, I want to know what does!? What can I do to improve this from 85% to say 95% or better? The issue is that 85% is the best. This is inside, at my house, at training time, when the parrot is hungriest and most motivated. If I want to recall her midday or outside the rate of response drops off significantly. I am still curious how to improve the rate of response.
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Re: Continuous vs. Variable Ratio Reinforcement for Flight

Postby Mona » Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:24 pm

Hi Michael:

I think that there are other variables besides reinforcement schedule at work since you are not in a laboratory situation. One factor can be prior rate of conditioning. If you tried this experiment on a novice bird, I would bet you would get much different results. Kili is highly conditioned.

Of course, it would also depend on the age of the bird. If you start with a very young bird, you can probably get 100% recall (with training) no matter what reinforcement schedule you use because food is not necessarily the primary reinforcer depending on what stage of development the bird is in. Baby birds tend to gravitate to safety and security. They have to or they don't survive in their evolved environments.

Age of the bird is definitely a factor. Prior conditioning is also a factor. Time is also a factor. How long did you participate in the experiment? Maybe Kili is more motivated for 15 minutes or so and then reinforcement drops off after that. Did you factor time in?

Time of day can also be a factor. As you mentioned, location is a big factor. Distractions are also a big factor.

I just think there are always a multitude of variables that we cannot account for that can and do effect reinforcers in a "real world" situation...

Having said that, you are definitely narrowing down some key performance factors.

I do know that there was a time when I had about 100% recall with Babylon. As she has matured, it can be a bit more challenging to keep her focus on me. She has a boyfriend and she also has some other instinctual drives....like looking for a nesting spot. She can also be very possessive and this can also trump a recall cue. Don't get me wrong, she is still excellent and I can polish her off with practice on my part and a little work......but maturity has definitely effected ease of performance.

Thanks!

Mona
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Re: Continuous vs. Variable Ratio Reinforcement for Flight

Postby Mona » Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:40 pm

Also...from a purely theoretical perspective, while I do believe that operant conditioning definitely works....since you are working with "animate objects" (living, breathing animals), I wonder why "intent" is never thrown into the discussion. Every living thing has "intent".

I suppose the answer is that "intent" is not measurable and when you are working with operant conditioning you are only concerned with what is observable. That is valid; however, that does not nullify "intent". It just means that you can't see or measure it so your work to explain phenomenna removes "intent" from the explanation process (or operant conditioning equation....).

I know that the problem with defining specific "intent" is that we often "humanize" animals by assuming OUR intent is THEIR intent. It is a common training problem; however, when working on behavior modification I always find it useful to attempt to understand the animal's intent from their perspective. One way to do that is asking "what is the reinforcer?"....but I think that simplifies the concept of "intent" a little bit. Simplification is often good for communication and training, but it is "simplification"......the deeper you go, the harder it is to keep the model so simple.

That's why we need to keep learning and trying to understand the "bird's eye view". We'll never get there and never know it but it can sure help us grasp training possibilities as well as limitations.

Thanks!

Mona
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Re: Continuous vs. Variable Ratio Reinforcement for Flight

Postby Michael » Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:28 pm

Actually, in every one of my trials, recall performance went up as a factor of time. The longer I went, the better she did. Here is the raw data for the 5 trials:

Day 1:
40 recall attempt, 30 treats, 115g, several other tricks, motivation 4/5, almond recall treat

32/40 1st attempt recall 80%
7/40 2nd attempt recall 17.5%
1/40 missed recall on 2nd attempt 2.5%

early fr1:

5/8 1st attempt recall 62.5%
3/8 2nd attempt recall 37.5%

mid session vr3:

10/15 1st attempt recall 67%
5/15 2nd attempt recall 33%

mid session fr1

6/8 1st attempt 75%
1/8 2nd attempt 12.5%
1/8 missed attempt 12.5%

final session fr1

8/9 1st attempt 89%
1/9 2nd attempt 11%


Day 2:
70 recall attempts, 35 treats, 115g, several other tricks, motivation
5/5, misc seed treats


62/70 1st attempt recall 89%
5/70 2nd attempt recall 7%
3/70 missed recall on 2nd attempt 4%

#1 early fr1:
9/10 1st attempt recall 90%
0/10 2nd attempt recall 0%
1/10 not recall within 2 calls 10%

#2 mid session vr3:

9/10 1st attempt recall 90%
1/10 2nd attempt recall 10%

#3 mid session vr3:

9/10 1st attempt recall 80%
1/10 2nd attempt recall 10%
1/10 missed landing 10%

#4 mid session vr3:

8/10 1st attempt recall 80%
2/10 2nd attempt recall 20%

#5 mid session fr1:

10/10 1st attempt recall 100%

#6 end of session VR4 test trial

18/20 1st attempt recall 90%
1/20 2nd attempt recall 5%
1/20 not recall within 2 calls 5%


Day 3:
72 recall attempts, 35 treats, 114g, several other tricks, motivation
3/5, misc seed treats

Howling wind/rain distraction and less motivated trainers

58/72 1st attempt recall 80%
12/72 2nd attempt recall 17%
2/72 missed recall on 2nd attempt 3%

#1 early fr1:
10/10 1st attempt recall 100%

#2 mid session vr4:

19/20 1st attempt recall 95%
1/20 2nd attempt recall 5%

#3 mid session vr5:

7/10 1st attempt recall 70%
2/10 2nd attempt recall 20%
1/10 missed landing 10%

#4 mid session vr5:

4/10 1st attempt recall 40%
6/10 2nd attempt recall 60%

#5 mid session fr1:

8/10 1st attempt recall 80%
2/10 2nd attempt recall 20%

#6 end of session vr3

10/12 1st attempt recall 84%
1/12 2nd attempt recall 8%
1/12 not recall within 2 calls 8%


Day 4:
60 recall attempts, 20 treats, 115g, several other tricks, motivation
3/5, misc seed treats

Just less motivated and more distracted

52/60 1st attempt recall 87%
5/60 2nd attempt recall 8%
3/60 missed recall on 2nd attempt 5%

#1 early fr1:
4/5 1st attempt recall 80%
1/5 2nd attempt recall 20%

#2 mid session vr3:

13/15 1st attempt recall 86%
1/15 2nd attempt recall 7%
1/15 not recall within 2 calls 7%

#3 mid session vr5 (with clicker):

18/20 1st attempt recall 90%
1/20 2nd attempt recall 5%
1/20 missed landing 5%

#4 mid session vr5:

9/10 1st attempt recall 90%
1/10 2nd attempt recall 10%

#5 end of session vr2

8/10 1st attempt recall 80%
1/10 2nd attempt recall 10%
1/10 not recall within 2 calls 10%


Day 5:
60 recall attempts, 18 treats, 114g, several other tricks, motivation
3/5, misc seed treats

Daylight savings time transition

51/60 1st attempt recall 85%
8/60 2nd attempt recall 13%
1/60 missed recall on 2nd attempt 2%

#1 early vr3:
12/15 1st attempt recall 80%
3/15 2nd attempt recall 20%

#2 mid session fr1:

5/5 1st attempt recall 100%

#3 mid session vr5:

18/20 1st attempt recall 90%
2/20 2nd attempt recall 10%

#4 end of session vr5:

16/20 1st attempt recall 80%
3/20 2nd attempt recall 15%
1/20 not recall within 2 calls 5%


As you can see from the raw data, in fact she gets better as she goes along. I think there is an element of learning where she learns that for the period of this training session, there will be lots of rewards for flight recall. I drew my interpretation (from data and experience) of how her recall response plays out in a training session like the trials mentioned above.

Image

As you can see above, I normally stop training right at the point where response starts to drop off as the result of being no longer hungry or too tired. Here, I'd like to demonstrate how I feel hunger satiates vs. tiredness from exercise.

Image

The red line represents tiredness and I believe it plateaus in the middle at some point which can be labeled "endurance." The levels of hunger I demonstrate I mean more in terms of usable hunger toward training and not overall hunger of the parrot. I think we only tap about the top 10-20% of the parrot's hunger to do training and the rest of it is too spread out to merit standing around all day to get the last bits of it to train with.

As you can see, on a continuous reinforcement schedule (FR1), the hunger is satiated before all of the physical endurance is tapped (furthermore, with prolonged exercise that physical endurance should grow, however hunger remains about constant from day to day). So by using continuous (1:1) reinforcement, you cannot tap your parrot for it's maximum flight potential. From my trials with Kili, it appears that she satiated from a 115g training weight after approximately 30 treats. So any training after 30 treats would lack hunger motivation. This does not mean that the parrot is not hungry and will not eat an entire meal after this, however, the parrot will not continue to work for food at a rate of response that justifies the training effort.

Taking things to the other extreme, at an intermittent variable ratio reinforcement schedule of 1 out of 5 (VR5), tiredness appears to kick in at or before the point at which the parrot no longer desires treats for recalls. The number of responses that can be achieved at VR5 is much greater but the complete allocation of treats per training session may not be achieved as the parrot gets tired before running out of hunger. Therefore the remaining hunger motivation cannot be applied toward training either. As you can see on day 5, I only used 18 treats to achieve 60 recalls. As we found from previous days, Kili is willing to work for 30 treats from that weight. However, 60 recalls (with probably a shorter resting period in between without a break for reinforcement after every recall), she tired out and I terminated the recall training prior to maximum use of the treats.

So what I am beginning to see is that the optimum training reinforcement schedule is somewhere in the middle at VR3. I had guessed it would be about 3 just from experience but my tests seem to lead me toward the same conclusion. At around a variable ratio of reinforcement of 1 out of 3, I can maximize the parrots exercise and hunger satisfaction by having a lot of recalls and providing a reasonable number of treats to drive motivation. I can expect up to 75 recalls in exchange for 25 treats. 75 recalls is about the limit where I can observe her starting to get tired and 25 treats is about the point where eagerness for treats begins to drop off. By using VR3 I can maximize my flight training to its maximum.

I did not mention time. Of course there is a trade off of attention span vs. resting time between recalls. If you move too quickly, the parrot will have insufficient time to rest between flights and tire quickly. If too much time is given to rest between recalls, too much time will pass and the parrot's attention will be lost before the available energy capabilities are used up. For the sake of this discussion I have been assuming that the rate of training remains about constant because my training style is pretty unified. I did however mix A to B recalls of perch to person or person to person in my study and have found that it doesn't play much of a difference. So the type of recall can also be discounted.

Mona, the issues that you bring up are mostly controlled for in my case. The endurance and conditioning are the same across all of my trials as they happened the same week. Time of day and duration of session were also pretty consistent as I train right before her bed time. So while all of these other considerations can affect recall performance from parrot to parrot or from the same parrot in different years, none of those factors should have played a role in my week long recall trial. All I analyzed were differing ratios of reinforcement and found that motivation is not affected by reinforcement schedule and the main reason to manage a reinforcement schedule is to maximize the number of responses that can be made before tiredness or hunger satiation occur.
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Re: Continuous vs. Variable Ratio Reinforcement for Flight

Postby Michael » Thu Mar 25, 2010 10:09 pm

I just continued the study for two more days so I figured I'd share the newer data:

Day 6:
60 recall attempts, 12 treats, 113g, several other tricks, motivation
5/5, misc seed treats


53/60 1st attempt recall 88%
6/60 2nd attempt recall 10%
1/60 missed recall on 2nd attempt 2%

#1 early vr5:
18/20 1st attempt recall 90%
1/20 2nd attempt recall 5%
1/20 not recall within 2 calls 5%

#2 mid session vr5:
17/20 1st attempt recall 85%
3/20 2nd attempt recall 15%

#3 end of session vr5:
18/20 1st attempt recall 90%
2/20 2nd attempt recall 10%


Day 7:
60 recall attempts, 17 treats, 109g, several other tricks, motivation
2/5, misc seed treats


42/60 1st attempt recall 70%
18/60 2nd attempt recall 30%
0/60 missed recall on 2nd attempt 0%

#1 early vr5 (clicker):
17/20 1st attempt recall 85%
3/20 2nd attempt recall 15%

#2 mid session vr10:
13/20 1st attempt recall 65%
7/20 2nd attempt recall 35%

#3 mid session vr10:
6/10 1st attempt recall 60%
4/10 2nd attempt recall 40%

#4 end of session fr1:
6/10 1st attempt recall 60%
4/10 2nd attempt recall 40%


Day 6 demonstrated a slight improvement over previous days but continued to show about the same consistency as well as similarity between continuous vs variable ratio reinforcement. Day 6 was an experiment in that all of the recalls were reinforced on a VR5 reinforcement schedule and yet results were similar to or better than days when higher rates or continuous reinforcement was used.

Day 7 was disappointing in terms of training. Several things stand out, however, about day 7. First of all, the 109g weight (the lowest weight I've had her down to in a long time, this was an accident because of a diet switch up in the morning) had no impact on motivation. She has often had better motivation at higher weights so bringing the weight down too low seems to serve little impact on recall motivation improvement. Second of all, I tried to double the previous intermittent reinforcement schedule to a VR10. That means for 10 flown recalls (typically 50ft there and 50ft back) she would only receive one measly seed.

While the immediacy of recalls at VR10 was poor and many recalls didn't work till the 2nd call, the great thing was that there were no missed recalls within 2 calls at all this time. So basically increasing the reinforcement ratio to 10 did not make her refuse to recall. I began to wonder if the thinned ratio was the factor that hurt her immediate recall ratio so I ran two side by side trials. First I had her do 10 recalls for a single treat. Then I had her do 10 recalls for 10 treats (actually it was a few less because I don't reward coming on the second try but I don't think that is very relevant to my point). The amazing discovery was that the results were the same. She was not particularly motivated to recall immediately either way BUT she did continue to recall eventually rather than refuse to come all together.

I think using variable ratio reinforcement like this and thinning the reinforcement interval is good for two things: first of all it lets you practice a greater amount of tricks for fewer treats. Second of all it builds a resistance to extinction. By thinning the ratio of reinforcement you ensure that those times on occasion that you do not reward your parrot, that you are not unteaching the behavior since it wasn't rewarded. Basically she is learning to come for the sake of coming and the reward only helps maintain this mindset. However, to fly 1000ft of recalls to get 1 seed (which I cannot imagine paying off energy wise) demonstrates a good solid foundation of the behavior. Recall is not going to get lost for the occasional not-reward. I'm figuring by pushing lower and lower reward rates in training will make higher reward rates in practice safer. So if I can push VR10 or even perhaps VR20 in focused training, then using VR3 for practical application recall would work very well and not push the parrot's extinction boundary.

Now I just need to figure out how to motivate her better and get better immediacy out of her. However, now I am certain that the ratio of reinforcement only affects extinction and not motivation.
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Re: Continuous vs. Variable Ratio Reinforcement for Flight

Postby Mona » Fri Mar 26, 2010 2:40 pm

Hi Michael:

I'm pretty busy today but a quick comment. You wrote:

"Actually, in every one of my trials, recall performance went up as a factor of time. The longer I went, the better she did. Here is the raw data for the 5 trials"

I think you are talking about repititions. Kili's recall improves with repititions.

When I was talking about time, I meant that you might want to be measuring how long the sessions are. Let me see, I think they call that latency. How long does it take for Kili to perform each behavior? This quite definitely is a factor of performance.

That's all the brain power I have left today...Chat later.

Thanks

Mona
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Re: Continuous vs. Variable Ratio Reinforcement for Flight

Postby Michael » Fri Mar 26, 2010 2:51 pm

Latency is the measure between the stimulus and the response. In terms of flight recalls the amount of time between the call and the beginning of flight would probably be measured in under 2 seconds always. Or she doesn't come until called again. So to be able to accurately measure the latency I would either need some automatic timing equipment or to video all the sessions and count video frames to get the latency. This really isn't worth my effort and wouldn't improve recall performance as a result.
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Re: Continuous vs. Variable Ratio Reinforcement for Flight

Postby Michael » Sat Mar 27, 2010 9:51 pm

Just wanted to share an update from today's session because the results were absolutely outstanding!

Day 8:
60 recall attempts, 6 treats, 115g, several other tricks, motivation
5/5++ (4 color ring on peg, no clicker, first try, small treat. Puzzle, all right on first try, no clicker, small treat), misc seed treats


All VR10, used extra treats/hunger to reward return to perch rather than recall. Super exceptional motivation. Uncovered cage at 7:30, half pellets breakfast but long day cause I went flying. Parrot happy to see me back so let her out several times. Good mid-day recalls and exceptional training session. All session no clicker.

55/60 1st attempt recall 91%
4/60 2nd attempt recall 7%
1/60 missed recall on 2nd attempt 2%

#1 early vr10 (half distance):
9/10 1st attempt recall 90%
1/10 2nd attempt recall 10%

#2 mid session vr10 (half distance):
10/10 1st attempt recall 100%

#3 mid session vr10 (half distance):
10/10 1st attempt recall 100%

#4 mid session vr10 (half distance):
9/10 1st attempt recall 90%
1/10 2nd attempt recall 10%

#5 mid session vr10:
8/10 1st attempt recall 80%
1/10 2nd attempt recall 10%
1/10 missed recall on 2nd attempt 10%

#6 end of session vr10:
9/10 1st attempt recall 90%
1/10 2nd attempt recall 10%


Basically the entire portion of flight training today was using a VR10 ratio (10 flights, 1 random treat). Kili was super motivated today which surprised me considering her 115g weight but I decided to put the motivation to maximum use and experiment further with my reinforcement schedules study. It absolutely baffles me. She did 60 recall flights totaling a distance of 2,000ft for a mere 6 treats!!!! I didn't even use her favorite treats. These were just some of the boring seeds from the usual mix, not even sunflower ones. And to think, I got more reliable/instantaneous recalls out of her today than any of the other 7 sessions I was monitoring.

If she were this reliable outside, I'd consider outdoor freeflight. However, I do know that this was an exceptional case and it's still under all controlled environment so the outdoor harness flight stuff still has a long way to get here. Yet it is my hope that if she has a very reliable indoor recall, then it may carry over to outside. I am really amazed but rewarding her less frequently for recalls has actually increased her immediate response rate, imagine that? I do understand that the high overall motivation had more to do with it than the reinforcement ratio, however, it says a lot about the strength of intermittent reinforcement. Now the goal is to get this kind of recall performance to be routine.
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Re: Continuous vs. Variable Ratio Reinforcement for Flight

Postby Mona » Mon Mar 29, 2010 1:46 pm

Hi Michael:

Good job with the recalls but I wonder if the social component was more reinforcement for Kili than the treats. You wrote that you were gone all day. You also wrote:

"Basically the entire portion of flight training today was using a VR10 ratio (10 flights, 1 random treat). Kili was super motivated today which surprised me considering her 115g weight but I decided to put the motivation to maximum use and experiment further with my reinforcement schedules study. It absolutely baffles me. She did 60 recall flights totaling a distance of 2,000ft for a mere 6 treats!!!! I didn't even use her favorite treats. These were just some of the boring seeds from the usual mix, not even sunflower ones. And to think, I got more reliable/instantaneous recalls out of her today than any of the other 7 sessions I was monitoring."

As you know, Senegals are highly social animals. When they are paired, they fly to each other and they feed each other. So...they naturally pair food and social "reinforcement". This is extremely powerful..as you demonstrate...especially for the "hen"

Any idea how to factor "social reinforcement" into your experiment?

Thanks!

Mona
Mona in Seattle
Phinneous Fowl (aka Phinney) TAG
Babylon Sengal
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Re: Continuous vs. Variable Ratio Reinforcement for Flight

Postby Manziboy » Mon Mar 29, 2010 2:46 pm

I just got around to reading this topic. Michael, I think you have done a great job at keeping track of your training sessions. I would not have predicted these results at all. I am going to try it with Manzi. I am amazed at how many flights you can do with Kili. I only do up to 10 at a time with Manzi before he starts getting either tired or full. Using this, maybe I can postpone how quickly Manzi will get full. On the other hand, I have tried not giving him treats before for flights and he gets frustrated quickly. I am going to try it though and I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks for letting me know about this topic.
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