The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 9:30 pm 
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Great that you mention the talk by Amy Cuddy (Your body language shapes who you are, or here is the article if someone wants to read the whole story). I thought I had posted it in the 'Interesting and inspiring talks' thread, but apparently not, so I will do this now. And yes, I also believe that this is very relevant to this topic.

So much fun and so interesting to discuss these things with you and the others. You are such a wonderful addition to this forum. :)


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 10:17 pm 
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That article and talk sounds fantastic! I will be looking at it today! Yes I agree Kathy, you are a wonderful addition to the forum!

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 3:27 pm 
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sweetleigh wrote:
Yes I agree Kathy, you are a wonderful addition to the forum!
Just wanted to say the same thing! So, once again: I'm very glad you joined us Kathy! :f:

What a great discussion! The part about overshadowing the intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivators really made me think... I always thought that clicker training can turn out all wrong, even with lots of rewards, but I couldn't quite put my finger on a possible cause. This is surely an important caveat for this kind of training.

I often experience how behaviours that I train with Mucki deteriorate or break down completely in some circumstances. Usually it correlates with a lack of motivation on my side - it seems like I cannot transfer the spark of playfulness in a credible way. In such moments even the most intrinsic rewarding things, like Jambette or Spanish Walk, cannot entice Mucki. I don't think that my reinforcement schedule changes that much to be the only cause for it, so there must be more to it than just the treats. Furthermore, in a session like that, all the treats in the world wouldn't change Mucki's attitude.
But sometimes I can make a turnaround when I can motivate myself in a believable way.

I also use the whip in different circumstances. In liberty work I use it often away from Mucki and behind me and I found it motivating in an encouraging kind of way. Of course, that's my interpretation and I can't know if Mucki sees it similar. But it has the same effect like I was using an encouraging body language, or raise my voice in a "come on!" sort of way.

It's a treacherous field, because it's so easy to lose myself in anthropomorphic analogies. I have mainly just Mucki to test my theories upon, so it will all remain very vague and led by 70% gut feeling.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:09 am 

Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:39 pm
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Another note on the reward system... I have been studying the "cognitive resources" work (Baumeister on Willpower for example) and considering how to design from the perspective of a limited, finite "tank" of cognitive resources. Given that this work has also been demonstrated with dogs, it is not much of a stretch to think of how this applies to horses.

Summary: there is a pool of "cognitive resources" and these resources are used for two things we always assumed were completely separate: willpower (including self-control and sustained attention) and cognitive processing (actively thinking, problem-solving, making choices, taking decisions, etc.). Exercising self-control depletes the available resources. Problem-solving and thinking/focusing depletes the resources.

So I now do things that "consume resources" with my horses in a different order. Things that REALLY take concentration, focus, effort OR self-control (getting clipped, for example), I try to do when those resources are most plentiful -- after a good meal and before being asked to do anything at all challenging. The research says it does not matter whether they LIKE the thing they are focused on -- it will still create a drain. With a human, doing crossword puzzles, for instance, would still deplete your cog resources no matter how much you loved doing it.

What this has to do with the reward system:

1. Glucose in the brain is the quickest way to replenish resources. A human asked to solve math problems and is struggling after some time of doing other tasks that also drain resources -- like memorization tasks -- will see a boost in performance immediately following eating something that sends glucose to the brain. So... That would be a PLUS for treats.

2. BUT... the dopamine reward system is also considered "cognitively expensive". So while it creates focus AND can replenish resources (if the reward increases glucose), engaging the reward system is also costly. It does a LOT to the brain, much of it positive, but one consequence is less availability of resources for processing and self-control.

So... Just one more thing to think about for me, especially when trying to balance between full-on Operant conditioning with +r and more neutral, less reward-system-engaging work. Work done through -R does not invoke the seeking/"toward" behavior we so much want in many cases, but it is also less costly, assuming the communication is clear and does not spill over into punishment, stress, or anything else that ALSO would consume resources.

I will post a source for the "reward system is cognitively expensive" a little later... Not at my normal computer.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 1:28 pm 
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For information about the connection of the reward system and coordinated movement see also this post by Romy:
http://www.artofnaturaldressage.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=79632#p79632

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 4:10 am 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
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wow, what I cool thread... I wish I could read everything on this forum... :)

Well, this probably explains a thing that has puzzled me. I am very new to using positive reinforcement, I still combine it with negative reinforcement, but very much try to use the shaping criteria and reward the smallest step.

In the beginning, my horse would be very keen for treats and seemed to look forward to getting one and very much appreciate it. Few months ago (probably about 6 months into our adventure in this kind of training) - he slowly began to refuse treats at some times. This was a huge red flag for me! What's wrong?! But at other times, even during the same training session, he would be looking for the treat when presented with it...

... it took me longer then I would like to admit to figure out the pattern :) - doing "old and easy" stuff - he didn't want the treat.... anything difficult, or especially when the pressure (mental/energy) went up - he would turn towards my hand and take the treat with desire.

How interesting.... I was unaware of the extrinsic reward extinguishing the intrinsic one! This is SO IMPORTANT! Could it be my horse was saying just that? ;)

Thank you all for posting here... man, do I still (and hopefully forever) have lots to learn! :)


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