Understanding Empowerment, Training For It, And Rehabilitating Disempowerment
Mr. O’Heare does a nice job of summarizing basic learning theory as understood by behaviorism and applied behavior analysis. He also provides details of the evolution of behavior modification techniques. He covers past methodology when the focus was on using aversive stimuli and punishment to change behavior. This, followed by modern approaches that focus on the use of appetitive stimuli and positive reinforcement as a means of changing behavior.
Working from the frame of a little-known fringe element of science called “behaviorology”, Mr. O’Heare attempts to pull the study of behavior out of the well-seated realm of psychology to be a stand-alone field of study. His logic for this choice is that a large part of psychology focuses on what he refers to as private behaviors (thoughts and emotions) which are only observable by ‘an audience of one’. This is the individual experiencing the thoughts and emotions.
“Behaviorology” attempts to focus strictly on the overt behaviors that can be quantified by an outside observer. In his effort to make this break from psychology, Mr. O’Heare rebrands several well-known theories, using the same definitions but coining new and slightly different terms to refer to the theories.
For those trainers and behavior consultants who are already versed in learning theory and the complementary issues such as learned helplessness, systematic desensitization, counter conditioning, etc., you may find this book a little difficult to read. The information is sound, but the language has been changed to suit the effort of attempting to be something other than traditional behaviorism and applied behavior analysis.
The title of the book led me to believe that there would be a handful of concrete examples of modifying behavior in ways that build confidence and thus ‘empowerment’. As a reader, I recognize that every case will be different, but the use of case studies to demonstrate behavior change can go a long way to help explain the lengthy scientific explanations of protocols. I admit I was disappointed that I didn’t read a single specific example of behavior modification.
If you have a solid foundation in learning theory and are looking for a quick reference guide, this book could be quite useful. If you’re new to the field, I expect the small changes in terminology might prove confusing when conversing with those trained through classical behaviorism and applied behavior analysis.
Author - Jody Epstein
Jody Epstein is a certified behavior consultant, certified professional dog trainer, and holds a master’s degree in animal behavior from Tufts University. She has been training professionally for more than 11 years and is pleased to be part of the Academy of Pet Careers team, teaching the next generation of trainers. Look out for her blogs on all things dog training and animal behavior.