Tonawanda News


August 11, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: The ABCs of human and animal behavior

Tonawanda News — It is three in the afternoon and I have decided to go to the cinema. The movie starts at 4 p.m. 

A few minutes later I make myself a late a lunch. I arrive at the theater after 4 p.m. and I still have to watch sixteen minutes of movie trailers. I do not like movie trailers. The last time I went to the theater to see a movie was last month and the time before that was around a year ago. I usually do not care what is coming out and would much rather wait until I can watch it at my house.

Behavior should be looked at from a distance. That is to say behavior is not just the here and now. Things happen before the behavior and after. This stuff can predict future behaviors. When we train our pets that is what we are truly interested in: future behaviors.  

B. F. Skinner, a famous American psychologist and behaviorist, said that these things before and after the behavior are essential to learning the meaning of behavior. The stuff that happens before the behavior are called antecedents and the things that happen after are called consequences. Therefore we have antecedents setting the stage for behavior which leads to consequences A, B and C. 

Let’s say the behavior that we are interested in is me attending the movies. What are the antecedents?

What affected me getting to the movies? By not eating breakfast until later, I was not hungry for lunch until 3 p.m. I ate a little after 3 and that pushed me into leaving the house even later. I could have left sooner by eating earlier. If I had decided to go to the movies earlier in the day, I could have rearranged my eating schedule. These are just a sampling of some antecedents that set the stage for me getting to the movies. You might be able to think of a few more, including route taken, traffic patterns, going the speed limit, etc.

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