Reinforcement and Bridge Signals



In order to teach a skill we need to inspire the behavior, reinforce it, add a cue, then (if you want or if the skill calls for it) put it on stimulus control. We already mentioned how to create the behavior [Creating Behavior].

Now your horse is doing the behavior, how do you reinforce it? Simply add something the horse values. There are primary reinforcers, things the animal always wants and/or needs, food, water, procreation. The easiest and safest of these to control is food. But we can also use Secondary reinforcers, these are things the animal has come to learn are wonderful. These include scratches, praise, and even behaviors that have been strongly reinforced. The difficulty with secondary reinforcers is that they may vary (good scratching spots may change daily or seasonally, praise and behaviors need to be well connected to a primary reinforcer before they become reinforcing themselves). Behaviors that become secondary reinforcers can then be used in behavior-chains [Building Behavior Chains].

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