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Posts Tagged ‘behavior psychology’

A while back I posted on my personification of Zefir. Since then I have been observing my interactions with him.

I do find myself innately rewarding behaviors I want, which includes behaviors that are ‘human-like’ and amuse me. The fact that I find myself doing this without thinking speaks to my growth as a trainer. Timing rewards, choosing rewards, timing removal of a gratifying object/action, is no longer a huge brain drain. Now that I’ve realized how far I’ve come with this I’m very excited at how much easier it will become to improve even more. Now all the brain matter that was focused on getting the reward x-units-close to the perfect moment can be focused on getting my rewards x-1-units close, then x-2-units close…etc.

But onto Zef. I think that all personification is not bad. When discussing animal behavior with others being able to describe a behavior in human terms can make communication faster and more clear. What we need to be aware of is that we don’t assume that using human terms to describe behavior automatically means that there is a human motives behind the behavior. Are dogs capable of human motives? Perhaps, but that is a different discussion which I shall save for later.

It all comes down to awareness and mindfulness. And not making assumptions beyond what is explicitly stated.

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Personification: A figure of speech in which inanimate objects or abstractions are endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form

I find myself doing this a lot with Zefir. I see human actions and motives in many things that he does. And while describing what he does as I might describe a human doing something similar makes talking with others easier, I do sometimes find it ridiculous. Personifying Zefir’s actions seems to me only a few small steps away from dressing him in clothes and cooking him food every night. So I find myself questioning the reasons I personify Zef.

One explanation is simply that I see things he does and because I am a human I relate to it in a human manner and assume his motives for a particular behavior are the same as my [human] motives would be.

Another explanation would be that I am somehow encouraging and rewarding times when his behavior is particularly human-like. I do laugh at him when he mimics something I do, that could be rewarding. Perhaps it’s something even more subtle–do I perhaps pet him more, or directly talk to him more when he is acting in a way that I find particularly human-esque?

I am going to observe both Zefir’s behaviors and my responses to them over the next few weeks in an attempt to tease apart this complex web of behaviors, responses, and motives.

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