They consider them not just pointless, but disastrous, and many of them wouldn’t be caught dead using labels.
You might think I’m exaggerating for dramatic effect, and yes, I do have a penchant for hyperbole so it is entirely possible… but sometimes I do wonder.
As an ethologist, I had merrily been using labels for decades without even realizing that they could be problematic. It was not until I started hanging out with behaviour analysts that it was pointed out to me.
I had two main reactions to that insight:
Wow, it’s really useful to realize that labels can be very detrimental!
Wow, some people really don’t seem to realize how useful labels can be!
When are labels useful? Well, as is the case with literally everything related to animals and their behaviour, it depends on the context.
Labels are sometimes useful, sometimes irrelevant, and sometimes harmful.
I can think of three useful types of label, and one label type that is harmful. And yet, the harmful labels are getting all the attention!
And it’s not because I’m a slow reader. I plowed through Brandon Sanderson’s 1100-page brick The Way of Kings in less than a day. So why, then, did this particular book take me so long?
Well, before I tell you, let me frame the context.
It’s a book that’s getting a lot of traction amongst animal trainers lately, specifically amongst the behaviour analytic crowd.
The book is called How Emotions Are Made, and it’s by Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of Psychology and a neuroscientist. In the book she makes a big, and in many peoples’ eyes, compelling, case of emotions being constructed rather than innate. So, many behaviour analysts love the book, and I feel like a complete dissenter in that crowd, because while they’re all nodding in agreement, I shake my head thinking that some of the main conclusions in the book are seriously flawed.
We’ll get to my objections in a minute, but let’s start with: what is the central idea behind the Constructed Theory of Emotions?
In this post, I’m sharing a chapter from my extensive online course Getting Behaviour! The video below is one of the 108 similar chapters from the course.
The video discusses why training sessions should be shorter rather than longer, and why training more than once a day may in some cases actually hurt your training; sleep consolidates memory, so a second same-day training session may interfere with the consolidation of the first training session.
Not only are these the behaviours that the animal learns first, so they are the ones that he’ll tend to revert back to and offer when he doesn’t know what else to do, but they also teach him about this game we’re playing together.
The foundation behaviours teach the animal what training is all about.
That it’s fun.
That the trainer is a good person to be around – interesting things happen next to that person, which builds their relationship.
Why telling the difference between The True Truth and The Fake News is so difficult.
There’s lots of information out there on the internet. And sometimes it’s contradictory.
About the state of the climate crisis.
About who won the 2020 US election.
About how best to train animals.
In this blog post, I will not discuss these topics at any length (although if you’re insatiably curious, I’ll reveal my position on them), but rather beg the question: how do we know which information to believe?
You may think it’s by somehow recognizing truths and rejecting false information.
It’s just that we humans are not very good at doing that.
We very often reject information, even though it’s true.
And we accept information, even though it’s false.
And we all do it.
Every. Single. Person. Does this.
Our view of the world is skewed, in some way or another. We’ve all built our personal understanding of the world on a mix of truths and falsehoods. Hopefully mostly truths, but still…
In essence, we all look at the world through partly broken glasses.
Disconcerting as that realization may be, I think that simply being aware that our glasses are partly broken will make it easier to fix them.
The purpose of this blog post is to alert you to your broken glasses, give ideas about how to fix them, and also how to go about helping others with their glasses.