Microshaping…and Beyond

I’ve been on the microshaping strategy for a while now. When I heard about microshaping at first I explained it as thin slicing a behaviour and building each layer up until you get to the behaviour goal. Simple. But my understanding of it has evolved enormously over the years thanks to some great teachers, and it is a HUGE topic.

Everything I have been sharing on training recently has, in some way or another, been about the microshaping strategy (everything is linked toeverything else). Its all interlinked, and I am still learning about the links and how they work.

Even extinction is linked to microshaping. Yesterday i said that extinguishing a behaviour can be stressful on the learner, and it can be. It can be excruciatingly emotionally painful for a learner when not done thoughtfully. However, extinction is unavoidable.

I remember when JRR first said that combining +P and +R can lead to poisoned cues and all the horse trainers in the room froze, heads spinning trying to make sense of the fact that our horses appear happy and we do combine these…but JRR can’t be wrong, because he’s JRR!!. And he wasn’t wrong (this is linked to my FB musings on how +P is not inherently aversive).

Hearing about not being able to avoid extinction (from Kay Laurence) had the same show stopping impact on me. If its so stressful and we can’t avoid it surely we are in big trouble!?!?

Not when extinction is thoughtfully considered as part of the microshaping strategy. If you are microshaping thoughtfully and carefully and setting the antecedent environment up in such a way that the learner can’t go far wrong, then what you are also doing is setting up micro-extinction. Each incorrect answer that may be offered is so tiny, and the correction to the antecedent environment (if any is needed), is so small that the step of extinguishing that ‘wrong’ answer from the learner is so micro that they barely notice it happened at all.

And then of course there is the vast topic of how to use extinction of behaviours to our benefit in training without it being stressful on the learner. Definitely a topic for another day.


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