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Alternative Primary Reinforcers

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Alternative Primary Reinforcers

Postby Michael » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:35 pm

What primary reinforcers do you find effective that are alternate to food reinforcement. We've extensively discussed food rewards and we know this is one of the easiest/cheap ways of training.

However, if you want to get the mot out of your training, you may have to find additional primary reinforcers to use. Has anyone trained a parrot something exclusively using non-food primary reinforcers?
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Michael
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Re: Alternative Primary Reinforcers

Postby Mona » Tue Nov 17, 2009 12:44 pm

Good topic. Controversial too!

Even scholars argue the difference between "primary" and "secondary" reinforcers. One reason is that these are not fixed categories, they are fluid. As you wrote earlier, secondary reinforcers can and do become primary reinforcers within different behaviorial streams.

Food is a good, strong primary reinforcer. It's easy to understand (in terms of training) and it's a generalized reinforcer among just about all living organisms. I do use favorite treats to reinforce cued behaviors. It's simple. It's elegant. It is flexible. Once you get the hang of it, it will apply to almost every training situation. It's also extremely predictable. Other reinforcers may not be as predictable (for the trainer).

Most species of parrots that we keep in captivity are highly social animals. I personally believe that there is a flock or social dynamic at work that is also a primary reinforcer. It is difficult to articulate this operationally.....but it's pretty clear to see for any body who develops a strong relationship with a parrot. If you keep a flighted parrot, it is extremely easy to understand. If your parrot follows you around, that parrot is doing it because they are reinforced by "being with you". If you have a bonded pair, one will follow the other parrot . They feed each other, but they also preen each other. There is also an attraction between opposite sexes that is undeniable and clearly primary.

Can you use a "social primary reinforcer" when training? I think you can. A lot of trainers will argue against it and say "stick with food" but I believe that there are always many tools available to a trainer and it's a mistake to stay focused on only one. Parrots are highly adaptable and as trainers, we need to be adaptable as well. We also need to PAY ATTENTION to the birds so we learn what work as reinforcers with each individual bird. I think the biggest disadvantage to using a "social primary reinforcer" is that it is not always flexible.

One benefit to keeping birds as companions in a safe environment is that you can spend more time learning about your bird and you can experiment every once in a while in a safe environment. It is perfectly alright to just have FUN!

So...I will say, yes there are other primary reinforcers. I think you can term one as the "social reinforcer". I'd say it is when a bird chooses to be NEAR a person or animal over any other behavior. Can you use this when training? I would say, "yes" but it is very unconventional and it may be more fluid than food.....so it's harder to predict behaviors if you use it. I do think that it is very useful when working on flight training behaviors - especially if you are working with your companion bird in a safe environment.

It works EXTREMELY well with Senegals. For some reason, they seem to be highly reinforced socially. When they fly, they like to keep their "partners" near at hand.

Obviously, a lot more to write about this topic......

Thanks!
Mona in Seattle
Phinneous Fowl (aka Phinney) TAG
Babylon Sengal
Doug (spousal unit)
Jack and Bailey (Gremlins)
Kiri (CAG)
http://www.flyingparrotsinside.com

youtube: Avian Flyers
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Re: Alternative Primary Reinforcers

Postby Michael » Tue Nov 17, 2009 2:16 pm

How could I "socially reward" Kili for flying to me on recall without later on inadvertently "punishing" her by sending her away. If all she gets is food out of it, once she has her food I can send her off when I feel like it.
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Michael
Macaw
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 6068
Location: New York
Number of Birds Owned: 3
Types of Birds Owned: Senegal Parrot, Cape Parrot, Green-Winged Macaw
Flight: Yes

Re: Alternative Primary Reinforcers

Postby Mona » Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:24 pm

Michael asked:

"How could I "socially reward" Kili for flying to me on recall without later on inadvertently "punishing" her by sending her away. If all she gets is food out of it, once she has her food I can send her off when I feel like it."

Punishment is decreasing a behavior, so what behavior are you decreasing when you send her away?

I'm just asking. I'm not sure that having her fly away is necessarily punishment if the behavior you are trying to increase is "flight". What do you think? In order for it to be punishment, a behavior needs to be decreased. I really have to put on a serious thinking cap on to come up with a behavior that is decreased in that scenario but maybe you know.

Also, I know that you are using variable reinforcement with food, but is it also possible that Kili is being consistently reinforced when she flies to you? Is it possible that the type of reinforcement is varied since she is being "socially reinforced" when she flies to you? The social reinforcement may be "inadvertant" but it is still reinforcement. Sometimes you intentionally give Kili a treat as reinforcement, but even when you do not give her a treat she is always socially reinforced when she recalls? (I think that's one reason "recall comes standard" with a lot of Senegals)

It's also possible that she is getting some "social reinforcement' when she flies away since your strategy has been to treat her once she is on the perch, right? Are you approaching her? That could be reinforcement for Kili as well.

Either way, I do agree with you that food is easier to manipulate and easier to for us train with.

By the way, I think Kili is a different subspecies than my three. All of my Senegals have some orange on their vests and I was just looking at Kili's videos and she is all yellow, isn't she?

Thanks! Gotta go!

Mona
Mona in Seattle
Phinneous Fowl (aka Phinney) TAG
Babylon Sengal
Doug (spousal unit)
Jack and Bailey (Gremlins)
Kiri (CAG)
http://www.flyingparrotsinside.com

youtube: Avian Flyers
User avatar
Mona
Poicephalus
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 271
Number of Birds Owned: 5
Types of Birds Owned: Senegal Parrots, Congo African Grey, Timneh African Grey
Flight: Yes


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