The training terminology dilemma

I read a lot of training information, particularly the science-based operant conditioning stuff. As with many “new” areas of discovery, our language did not come pre-populated with words that fit the new concepts. Old words have been given new, specific meanings in order for the scientists to communicate effectively. Imporant examples are the crucial terms “reinforcement” and “punishment”. They have very different usages in common speech and when discussing operant conditioning.

This poses a big problem when someone tries to explain the science to someone who isn’t in on these secret code words!

The dilemma is in how to handle this issue. A lot of hands-on animal trainers just ignore the discrepancy when talking to their peers, and hope they are understood in light of the context. They may either hope that new people will take the hint, or they dumb down their language and oversimplify. Neither of those sit well with me.

I particularly like Jakk Pankespp’s approach to the use of common words as scientific desriptors.

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