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 Post subject: Motivational Processes
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2014 9:35 pm 
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Many times I have had people say to me that my horses will only do things for treats , that they are only food motivated to do specific exercises , basically that they are only trained though classical , and or operant , conditioning . I have always assumed that these people are wrong and this does not really apply to how I am with Cici and Boris , for many reasons , firstly as we have no set rewarding system , in the sense that they will get the same amount and quality of treat for an easy exercise as they would for an physically straining exercise , and I will always reward any exercise he choose whenever he does one . It would follow then that he would opt for the easier exercises , e.g pawing , compared to a more physically straining exercise , e.g long rears , Laufcourbette , school halt . But this is , obviously , not the case , as his motivation to do wild exercises is greater or lesser depending on his mood or how he is feeling , as opposed to how I am conditioning stimuli . Secondly , I will give treats for everything and nothing , in the sense that he can come up to me and ask and receive treats without the need to complete an action or exercise .Thirdly , often I have no idea of what to do , and what to ask for , so it would be impossible to be rewarding for certain actions or exercises , as I just reward anything that he offers . I am sure that I could think of more reasons that the operant and classical conditioning systems are not part of our play , but I will digress ;) . The next question I ask myself , or I am asked is how or why then ,are my horses leaving grass or food to come and offer me beautiful exercises for , literally , 4 oats .Or in other words , how is he motivated to a challenge or task ,when he can easily choose an easier exercise to offer , and still receive the same amount or quality of reinforcement . Asking myself this only really brings me to another question of , if this is not like classical or operant conditioning , what role does these treats play in our interaction ?
I have recently been reading ( well I have only just started reading , but I have listened to many lectures covering this , and by her :smile: ) a very interesting paper by Carol Dweck , and this has presented me , in half , with an answer to both questions . Simply , What i reward and encourage , and ultimately the point of treats for us , is the action of the parts that lead to the components that lead to the end , i am probably making no sense , instead of the end product of the exercise , or behaviour that leads to the exercise ( behaviour shaping ) , i am rewarding the trying and experimental mindset to every ''problem'' , i am putting problem is quotation marks , as i could not think of a word the classifies how we interact and deal with everything that is better than this , though do not take it as though i mean a problem is the bad sense of the word . This inventive mind-set is very obvious to me , and most people on AND, and has been described by me in my diary , and many others is different places here on AND, like encouraging creativity(though i have not read much into this thread ,but i assume from the title and a quick read ;) )
This has also presented me with answers to questions that i have asked awhile ago , in that why ''normal horse people'' find how we are so hard to comprehend , as they are learning , or doing things for the goal that comes at the end , not the enjoyment of learning together in itself . Our tricks , have always seemed to me to be a welcome side affect to our relationship , in the way that they are not significant in our happiness or enjoyment of being together , but this is hard to explain , as i have no idea how we would be without exercises ,it is a bit like chicken before egg , in do the exercises create the relationship or does the relationship create the exercises . For us it is the relationship that creates the exercises , as in most of the tricks we have learnt together , they have come about almost by accident . I suppose we learn without quite being sure what we want to learn , as we have not learnt this yet . Simply we learn intrinsically , or better put , Mr learns intrinsically , and so do I , so the process of our learning , and ultimately our motivation , is unquantifiable , this makes how we approach obstacles or challenges very hard to explain , as they do not present themselves as challenges , rather as a learning opportunity and consequence of being a live intentional agent . This was an obvious under current when we were just playing in the pasture , but now as we are going for walks more and more this has become extremely obvious and noticeable for me to observe :f:


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2014 11:42 pm 
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Ali, just in case you haven't seen it: We have another thread that is dealing with a similar topic: The reward system - biochemical background of CT. If you are specifically interested in the intrinsic/extrinsic motivation aspect, you can start reading at the first post by Kathy. Oh, and thanks for linking to that Carol Dweck article again. I had heard about it (and her results about praise for intelligence versus effort) in a talk by Barry Schwartz and then downloaded the article, but I never got further than just skimming it. But next week I will print it and then read it as a whole, finally.:smile:

Personally, I think I am rewarding actions, although they are not end goals, usually. I have tried to explain it in this post in the Reward signals, precision and clicker training thread. Basically, for me the reward has become a physical part of my way of reacting to someone (the horse in this case ;)) during a conversation. And I don't only mean praising, but really just reacting. I guess you can compare it to nodding or smiling at another human, which can come in all kinds of situations, interpretations and intensities.

In terms of being food motivated or not, I think that in my interaction with my horses food plays a big role. Like you, I am also handing out treats without the horses doing anything specific. They can ask for a treat anytime and they will get it. And still they are doing exercises, sometimes even when I actually intended to give the treat for free, and they put in a little exercise before taking it. So why is that, if they also get treats for free?

I think that in our interaction, the benefit of the exercises from the horses' perspective is that they make me and the food more controllable in terms of timing and quantity. For example, when Baca is just walking next to me when we go for a walk, I will give him portions of oat at some intervals. In principle, he only needs to walk without doing anything in particular and still get treats. Even if I forget to give them to him, he could simply look at me or touch me with his nose. However, if he does a canter jump next to me, he can be sure to get a treat right now, and if he does a particularly beautiful canter jump, he can get an extra big portion, paired with some squealing by me. ;) Thus, by way of exercises or specific actions, the horses can make the outcome predictable.

That said, I also believe that many of the things we are doing are intrinsically rewarding - or get to be so with time. I just wanted to say that in our case, the treats are not just an add-on that actually does not play much of a role in their motivation. Treats are an important part in our way of relating to each other - which of course does not say that they are the only source of motivation. :smile:


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2014 12:25 pm 
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Thanks Romy , I will look at that thread :)
Quote:
Oh, and thanks for linking to that Carol Dweck article again. I had heard about it (and her results about praise for intelligence versus effort) in a talk by Barry Schwartz and then downloaded the article, but I never got further than just skimming it. But next week I will print it and then read it as a whole, finally.:smile:


I finished reading it on Thursday , it is very interesting :) , funny , I first heard about her in a talk by Barry Schwarts , I must have found it from one of your posts , if you have posted it here , other wise I have no idea where I found the talk ;)

Quote:
I just wanted to say that in our case, the treats are not just an add-on that actually does not play much of a role in their motivation. Treats are an important part in our way of relating to each other - which of course does not say that they are the only source of motivation. :smile:


Oh , you must have misunderstood me , as this is not what I meant :smile: , I actually meant much pretty much what you have said , though I say things in such a chaotic way . I was talking about actual exercises as an add on , as they are not needed , per se , as I would reward for nothing . Actually this post was for me to try and figure out what kind of motivation treats play in our relationship , not if . As for us , and for you guys , from what you have written , ''treats are an important part for us in relating to each other '' ( if you don't mind me quoting exactly :D )

Quote:
I think that in our interaction, the benefit of the exercises from the horses' perspective is that they make me and the food more controllable in terms of timing and quantity. For example, when Baca is just walking next to me when we go for a walk, I will give him portions of oat at some intervals. In principle, he only needs to walk without doing anything in particular and still get treats. Even if I forget to give them to him, he could simply look at me or touch me with his nose. However, if he does a canter jump next to me, he can be sure to get a treat right now, and if he does a particularly beautiful canter jump, he can get an extra big portion, paired with some squealing by me. ;) Thus, by way of exercises or specific actions, the horses can make the outcome predictable.
[/quote]

Yes .... I think it is very like this for us as well :yes: ... though I am sure that this is not the only motivation , I think that is also a reciprocal side to things as well . As just as I hate to not give Ceca a treat for an exercise he has offer , I think that this is the same for him , where he feels the need to return the acknowledgement . Treats are also a way for me to be able to say Thank you to him , and somehow I feel , specifically at the times when it is like what you describe . Where the horse will offer an exercise before taking the treat even though this not something even planned , It feels as though this is CecaC's way of rewarding , or thanking me :smile: ..

P.S I am sure this has been talked about in another paper it lecture , but I cant remember which one ! :twisted:


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 11:15 am 
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Fumu... I don't think I have the kind of (close) relationship with either of my horses that you both have with yours, but I dare say that I am the one, between the three of us, who initially had the worst relationship with their horse(s).

I bet you remember that I was veeeery much on the fence about using treats, and I was also very unsure of *how* to use them, i.e. using them "correctly". I didn't really know when/what to reward, and was concerned that we would have a solely food-dependent relationship.

I'm happy to say that it doesn't seem to be like that. I've kept Romy's "food as a smile" anecdote in my mind through all times. I've come to a point where I don't really think about how I use food. I just use it - also if they just ask for it.
I'd be lying if I said food is not a substantial factor in what we do, but... whatever floats our boat, I guess.

I'm really grateful to this board. I have developed a new way of thinking - which I shared just last week with one of my old high school classmates, who now studies psychology, and is currently digging into child behaviour. Was a lovely talk! She had never really considered how much animal and child behaviour had in common. She also found my way of thinking interesting.

Regarding sometimes not rewarding - that happens often here, primarily for practical reasons. For example, I sometimes have my hands full (carrying hay or whatnot), while either of the ponies does something. I often tell them it was nice/that I saw it, but that I can't give them anything right now. Especially Punto is pushy about his paycheck, but I'm actually using a "no" ("please don't"). I think it's working with his biting, and hope it will carry over to other things/situations. Not that I want to "control", but to avoid unfortunate situations.

I think I'm babbling... :huh:

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