Book Review: What Shamu Taught Me About Love, Life and Marriage – Amy Sutherland

This book was something I figured I would get around to reading eventually. It was on my list, it was about behaviour, but within a different application than the one I am used to, and I think I have just been on a roll with reading books this year, so, I read it 🙂

The author is a journalist who was writing about animal training methods at aquatic parks and the like. She became quite invested in what she was learning and attempted to apply it to her life and relationships, with quite good success!

The book discusses various techniques she learned while observing the training, and while they have different names, it was clear to see how it linked in to what I know and do.

It was also interesting to see how she started to think about the world and her interactions with others. Thinking about everyone around her’s behaviour, as well as her own, and what could she do to try and prevent the undesirable/challenging/frustrating behaviour from occurring.

It made me think about how I do try to think about that in my daily interactions, however for slightly different reasons. It did make me think about how I could try and think about the ways in which I could implement more antecedent strategies with some people in my life, and think I may have come to a reasonable understanding about that (for myself).

In regards to the animal part of the book, she has two lovely dogs, who you can tell her, and her husband, love dearly. She discusses the training aspect and how she implemented some strategies with her puppies, even though they were older. Spoiler alert (highlight the text)if you love dogs, just be warned there is a little bit of a sad bit towards the end (sorry!)

It also reminded me of when I visited Universal Studios a few years ago and saw the Animal Training show. I felt that it all made a lot of sense then, and it was very interesting reading this book and getting to know more about the process and different strategies they use when training lions, elephants, dolphins, birds… etc

I also was a little bit concerned that there was going to be no mention of behaviourism or Skinner, but about halfway through the book, there was a nice link to Skinner and his contributions to what the animal trainers were teaching.

Again, one of those books that I think as a behaviour analyst, you probably want to read, but I think I know a few people I could recommend it to, as an interesting read. It is quite an easy and short read, and provides a good understanding of the general principles, and use, of ABA.


References

Sutherland, A. (2009). What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage.

Universal’s Animal Actors

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Book Review: What Shamu Taught Me About Love, Life and Marriage – Amy Sutherland

Book Review: Walden Two – B.F. Skinner

The week between Christmas and New Years, I had a “staycation”. Which basically means, because I have done so much travelling this year, I wanted to stay home over the Christmas period, and do nothing. Well, lie on the beach, read, and watch cricket and movies. Which I did! (And I didn’t even get that burnt!)

I had about 6 books to read, and I read 5 over the week, which is pretty good. A whole mix of things – non-fiction (Murder in Mississippi by John Safran), fiction (The Escape by David Baldacci), one of my faves (High Society by Ben Elton), a random (Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk), and one that was recommended to me by someone who is as big a fan of ABA as me 🙂 (Walden Two by B.F. Skinner.)

I feel like it is one of those books you just have to read if you want to call yourself a behaviourist. I actually didn’t mind it, it was quite dry, and basically a conversation about the application of the principles of ABA to a real world setting, but a conversation between a few people, over the span of a few days, including discussions, arguments and realisations.

Throughout the book, I felt like different characters at different times. I feel like Skinner was trying to do that, trying to cover all possible angles and points that people might have, and addressing them with a solution.I felt I most related to the character narrating the story, but I don’t think I would have ended up in the same position as him.

Basically Walden Two is a community where people live and work, and it is completely structured and created around applying the principles of ABA to any situation, to make things easier and “better” for everyone involved. A place where like-minded people can live and everything is sorted and easy.

There are six visitors to the Walden Two community, and it is their experience of the place that we observe through the narration. They visit for about a week, and make up their own minds about whether or not it is the life for them.

There were some interesting points, and some things that seemed a bit far fetched. I felt as though sometimes the ‘creator’ of Walden Two, who was accompanying the visitors on most of their trip, seemed to have an answer for everything. I find that hard to believe, particularly as one of the attitudes of science is philosophic doubt […to continually question the truthfulness of what is regarded as fact. Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007).] And yes, while he seemed to have been experimenting with a range of things over a few years, and yes, he seemed to share this viewpoint, it just seems a hard concept to grasp.

I may be ignorant to say this, particularly as I am an avid believer of being able to apply the principles of applied behaviour analysis to any situation where there is observable behaviour, and it is of social significance or importance to the individual/s concerned, and be able to come up with a solution. Also, particularly as this is what I do, and what I believe. But I just found it hard to see this working so harmoniously and perfectly.

I know, I know, it is a work of fiction (and an old work at that – they were discussing the idea of negative reinforcement being punishment, and, based on a 1975 paper I read recently, they were confused about that initially until they conducted more experiments and realised negative reinforcement strengthened behaviour), but it started to get annoying! Every query, seemed to have an answer. I may just be a hugely cynical person (I don’t think I am!) but it all just seemed “too good to be true” – which I guess is the case with any utopian society.

It made me think about a few things. The first being, how much I apply the principles of ABA to my everyday life. I am always looking at every situation and figuring out what the function of a behaviour is at any given time. What is reinforcing me to do this again and again? I think I could be a bit more analytical about this in 2015. And really begin to live and breathe ABA 😀 (As a side note, there is a very good hashtag on twitter for this now – #everdayABA 😀 )

I also thought about the whole dissemination of ABA and how much this has not necessarily been done too well. I don’t think the book could be used as a way to promote the ideas of applying ABA to society’s issues necessarily, but in the way that I know ABA has many applications and uses, and could be beneficial in many areas of society – government, health, judicial systems… it did get me thinking about ways to share information without coming across as too judgy or ‘full on’ (which I do have a tendency to do!)

I guess I shouldn’t jump the gun and worry about how to make the whole world want to get on board the ABA train, particularly when the people I am working with (teachers, support staff – even some parents) find it hard to implement, but hey, dream big.

On the whole, I think if you work within a behavioural framework, it would be worth a read, at least to see the applications of ABA in everyday life. I also think people who are interested in socialism and ‘living off the earth’ (i.e. my Dad) would find it interesting, but it is quite a droll read (seriously, it is basically a transcript of their conversations over the week!) Any other suggested readings for behaviour analysts?


B.F. Skinner, (1948). Walden Two.

Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007). Applied Behaviour Analysis Second Edition

Michael, J. (2004)Positive and Negative Reinforcement, A Distinction That Is No Longer Necessary; Or a Better Way to Talk About Bad Things. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 24:1-2, 207-222.

Book Review: Walden Two – B.F. Skinner

Happy 2015!

It’s a beautiful New Year’s Day here in Sydney, and I spent the day with friends and family, and experiencing my friend’s young son’s first trip to the beach! It has been fascinating watching him grow up and see all the things he likes to do. It has also been fascinating being able to see situations in which the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis apply to different situations with him 🙂

This kid is absolutely adorable and such a great kid. He listens, is interactive and social, and easily redirected. He also has a few known reinforcers, mainly chips, which are usually plentiful when we are at our gatherings.

I am such a great/terrible Aunty (depending on who you ask – the kid or his parents) because everytime he comes to me and says “Pwease” I give him a chip! The bowl happened to be next to me today, and he came over to me and sat on my lap and said “Pwease” and I gave him a chip (one for each hand!)

As my brain does not turn itself off, every day I notice different examples of reinforcement, or shaping, or pairing, I immediately try to figure out what is causing him to keep coming to me.

In this scenario, he saw the bowl of chips and me, and knew that the reinforcement (chips) was available.

He also knew the behaviour of coming to me and saying “Pwease” has, in the past, resulted in him getting some chips.

And what do you know, he did it today and it worked!

Antecedent – chips & Loz available

Behaviour – going to Loz and saying “Pwease”

Consequence – he receives chips (and it is most likely reinforcement because he has done this in the past, and continues to do it!)

Another example I observed today was when we visited the beach. It was his first time in all his one and a half years of life of going to the beach. He loves swimming and the pool, but the beach is a little different – unpredictable, noisy, funny textures!

He went into the waves (waves = tiny little waves, maybe half a metre), clinging to Mum or Dad for dear life. Every time a wave came, they would dip him into it, and bring him back up for a cuddle. And every time he went into the water, and came back up, Mum, Dad, and the rest of us cheered!

At first, he still looked a little scared and unsure. After about the 5th time he was dipped, he came up with a little smile, and then it got bigger, and bigger. Success! He loves the beach (just like his Aunty Loz!)

This continued on for about 20 minutes. He was still quite apprehensive about actually standing in the water, but he did want to continue, even asking for more.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what part of ABA this is in relation to. At first, I thought pairing – we were pairing our praise with going in the waves – trying to make the waves as reinforcing as our attention. However it is not quite on the mark. If anyone has any suggestions or further thoughts on this, I’d love to hear it 🙂

Basically, I am really starting to think I live and breathe ABA… which is not necessarily a bad thing, I just need to figure out how to use it to make a changes to a whole lot of aspects of my life.

On that note, I recently read Skinner’s “Walden Two” and am definitely thinking I will write up a book review soon. It was an interesting read.

Happy New Year!


References

Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007). Applied Behaviour Analysis Second Edition

Behaviorbabe Website

I Love ABA Website

Happy 2015!