The A-Not-B Error and Physical Memory
NPR reported on the following study and I’ve quoted it in its entirety below. This is an interesting study because from my point of view it shows the correlation between physical memory and feelings. It is also interesting because it shows how experimenters are misled by a personality theory and see the dog as a self-contained intelligence relating to another being as a self-contained entity as well, i.e. the test dog perceiving the human test-giver as teacher dispensing information. The scientific interpretation of this experiment is why I say we can’t think outside the box, because thinking is the box.
September 3, 2009
A new study shows that dogs and young human babies both make the same classic error in a famous psychology experiment — while wolves raised by people do not.
The experiment was originally devised decades ago by the well-known child psychologist Jean Piaget. He found that if babies 10 months old or younger repeatedly see a toy placed in location A, they will look for the toy there even after watching the toy being placed in location B.
This is called the “A-Not-B Error.” By 1 year of age, children have grown out of it. But it’s such a weird observation that psychologists have been talking about it for decades. Some think it has to do with how babies perceive the permanence of objects. But others think it has something to do with how infants learn from people.
Adam Miklosi of Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary, is interested in how dogs have evolved to live with people, so he decided to see how dogs and their wild relatives, human-raised wolves, would do on this test.
In their experiment, wolves were generally not misled by what they had seen humans do before, according to a report in Science. They’d make a beeline for the right hiding place.
But dogs would act like a 10-month-old baby, going to screen A even though they’d just seen someone put the toy behind screen B.
The Human Influence
Miklosi think this means that dogs interpret the situation as a learning situation and choose to trust what the human is communicating rather than what they see with their own eyes.
“The dogs are sort of looking at the human as a sort of a teacher that has the privilege of some sort of information and they don’t want to override it with their own understanding of the case,” says Miklosi.
When the experiment was rigged up so that it involved no people, and the toys were instead dragged from place to place by a moving string, the dogs were less likely to make the mistake. They suddenly acted more like their wolf relatives.
“If there’s no teacher there, then the dogs are switching back, and then they are solving the problem on their own,” Miklosi says.
Human babies also were more likely to find the toy in the correct location if it was moved by a string instead of a person. “For me,” says Miklosi, “this was the biggest surprise.”
He believes all this shows that the presence of a person — social interaction — has a profound effect on how both dogs and babies interpret the situation.
For Dogs, It All Depends On the Person
There was one difference between dogs and young babies, though. When they redid the classic experiment but had more than one person do the hiding, it didn’t matter to the babies. They kept reaching for screen A, suggesting they were able to generalize about people.
But adding a new person changed everything for the dogs. “For the dog, if you’re changing the person, the knowledge is gone,” says Miklosi. The dogs ignored what had previously happened and, like the wolves, went straight to the toy.
“It’s a very original approach. It’s a very thought-provoking experiment,” says Clive Wynne, who studies dog cognition at the University of Florida. “I think like a lot of good studies, it doesn’t lead so instantly to conclusions. It leads to new questions.”
For example, he says, “there’s a puzzle in this paper in that you’ve got adult dogs behaving like 10-month-old children, when 10-month-old children are only going to act like this for two more months. They’re going to grow out of it very quickly.”
Still, he thinks we need more studies like this one, to learn about both human cognition and the inner lives of our canine companions.
“It is important that we understand how dogs think about us,” Wynne says, “because we have 70 million of these animals in our homes in the United States — more dogs than we have children.”
KB: What’s actually going on in this experiment is that the dog is orienting toward the place with the strongest feeling as it is triggered by physical memory, which is why changing the person proves to be so critical TO THE DOG. Because dogs go more by feel than any other animal, and do not grow out of this proclivity unlike human babies, and because the wolf goes more by instinct, i.e. shortest path to the target without apprehension of deflection in deference to physical memory, the dog exhibits an orientation to the specific memory as triggered by a human more than babies and wolves. (In other words for the wolf the apprehension of the physical memory of human will be qualitative and trigger habits and instincts, whereas with the dog the physical memory value can be apprehended quantitatively as basis of a true feeling and this computes an angular momentum as well. So the dog always feels a strong force of deflection when dealing with complex objects of resistance, i.e. human beings.)
I first became aware of this kind of thing when training police dogs for Search and Rescue. The softer dogs were more likely to become confused when trying to work out a faint scent. I remember one incident when the police handler, knowing where I was hidden on top of a ridge, kept moving in my direction while his dog was casting a bigger and bigger circle until finally it began searching for its handler instead of me. When we could see that this was going on we decided to terminate the exercise and start over with an easier problem and so the handler standing next to me on top of this high ridge, yelled out to his dog which we could see in the valley below. The dog was about 200 yards away and looking directly at the handler, turned on its heels and then ran at full speed just as it does when coming to its name all the way back to the patrol car parked in a lot perhaps a mile away. Once the dog reached the car and his handler wasn’t there, he turned around and quickly joined us on the ridge. The dog was going to the last place he had a strong feeling for his handler in his physical memory bank. He didn’t trust his eyes; he was going by feel and he had a stronger feeling for his handler in the police car than he had on that remote ridge when in a state of confusion, i.e. a weak feeling.
Join the exclusive and interactive group that will allow you to ask questions and take part in discussions with the founder of the Natural Dog Training method, Kevin Behan.
Join over 65 Natural Dog trainers and owners, discussing hundreds of dog training topics with photos and videos!
We will cover such topics as natural puppy rearing, and how to properly develop your dog's drive and use it to create an emotional bond and achieve obedience as a result.
Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin BehanIn Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
|Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.|
I find it really perplexing why this is such a common theme in the increasing number of dog cognition studies. Ironically, the justification for such studies is that a) we anthropomorphize dogs too much and need a fresh look, or b) we rely on studies of wolves to understand dogs. Yet, inevitably, *huge* leaps are taken in the conclusions of these studies that sometimes go greatly beyond typical anthropomorphization. And most revealingly, there’s never a lower level explanation of how it actually works. A behavior or chain of behaviors is analyzed, and that’s that– there’s no lower level function explained (as there is in NDT which is why I think it’s further ahead than the current cognition research).
That’s a very interesting, thought-provoking study. It sounds to me that the point made by the researcher Miklosi, has a lot of weight, that the dogs were seeing the individual person as an information source, but also yes Kevin, from an operant conditioning point of view, every visit to “A” was reinforcing the dog for going to “A” even though he hadn’t gone to “A” himdrlf. Seeing the person delivering toy to a particular place, just that simple information, acts as reinforcer for the dog to go to that location. But when a string or machine or different people are moving toy, the animal doesn’t percieve “information reinforcement” but has to create his own information, using a totally different part of his brain. Fascinating social influence!
reminds me of the study where the mom turns on the light switch with her nose, because her hands are full, and the baby understands that otherwise she would have used her hands,
but if she turns it on with her nose while her hands are empty, the baby will imitate/mirror that. – something like that, I am sure you guys know which study I mean, it has been used for trying to understand how.when dogs mirror and imitate.
I had a similar thing happen when i moved my dog’s toy basket into another room. it took a while for the dog to get the fact that it is no longer in its old place. I think it is good for the dogs to have these things move around. so they do not get too stuck in their ways.
I also think about what Kevin says about soft dogs.It seems to me that some dogs are more easily confused than others….
about the police dog training. seems to me the dog runs to the car because he is confused and wants to sit inside to feel safe. He IS ready to abandon the exercise !!!!
since he cannot get into the car, he tries to reconnect with his people…
anyway, just another interpretation…the reason why i think of this: My youngest dog has a tendency to use the car as a safe haven when not familiar yet with his circumstances.
we went to a vacation place in the summer with a 1 acre fenced area and a cabin, my dog sat in the car most of the time for the first couple of days, i left the window open so he could jump in and out for bathroom….
i think the the study is less about reinforcement of behavior and more about cognitive ability. older children and wolves, who have a higher brain capacity, aren’t fooled by object placement while 10 month old babies and dogs are.
yes, Sean, that is definitely the perspective of the study, but I can’t help but analyze it from an operant behavior POV. The knee bone is connected to the shin bone, and the learning process is connected to the cognitive ability.
“The dogs are sort of looking at the human as a sort of a teacher that has the privilege of some sort of information and they don’t want to override it with their own understanding of the case,” says Miklosi.
Really? Dogs understand “information” as a general concept? And they’re not only able to think about such things, they’re able to think about their own thoughts: “they don’t want to override it with their own understanding?” How do they know what they understand let alone know that their mental thought processes can be overridden? These are huge jumps in logic!
And Jenny Ruth, I don’t think you’re ever going to truly understand dogs until, just as an experiment, you stop trying to interpret everything through the lens of operant conditioning. If dogs obey us because of positive reinforcement, why would the dog in Kevin’s example have run back to the police car? The person she would have “predicted” getting a reinforcement from (which is how you’ve described the learning process in other posts and on your blog) was standing directly in front of her, not behind her. He was calling her to come to him! If she were capable of thinking in terms of predicting “good things happen to me when I obey,” she would have run straight to him, not turned and run back the car.
my dog learnt tracking with a tug on the end of a string, what i see is a dog searching in a wild state, she know how to search for corners etc amazing!i better keep my mouth off cause my friend know better than i do 🙂
Happy new year Jannik
Lee Charles, I don’t think you are ever going to truly understand dogs until, as an experiment, you grow up and stop insulting professional dog trainers.
It wasn’t meant as an insult, just a helpful suggestion. I’m sorry you felt insulted.
But once again, instead of addressing the specific issue I brought up, you attack the messenger. If the dog in Kevin’s example learned solely through operant conditioning, and the ability to predict the future that you believe dogs have, why did she run back to the car?
It’s a simple question.
In what other profession is it considered professional or even polite to write that another professional won’t truly understand (insert any word here: dentistry, teeth, teaching, car mechanics, cars, gardening, plants) until (insert anything here). It’s very offensive.
Hey, Grocery Store owner, you won’t truly understand groceries until blah blah blah.
If you can bring the conversation up to a higher plane, where people are respectful of one another, and actually conversing to learn, and that means you too Lee Charles! And even Kevin Behan! And Kevin Behan does give me more of the perspective of sharing observations, and being respectful of other trainers, and realize this is a business, and it’s not my hobby. If you can engage in the conversation of the level of actually being curious about, and valuing, my contributions to the conversation, I’ll consider re-entering the conversation. But if what you want to do is prove a point that you already figured out last week, then, congratulations! Go for it!
You’re mischaracterizing what I said. Here’s the actual quote: “I don’t think you’re ever going to truly understand dogs…” That’s an opinion and it’s phrased as such. In your version it’s a flat statement. “You won’t truly understand dogs until …” (If that’s what you think I said, I can understand why you’re upset.)
On the other hand, if someone had said something similar to me, I would’ve either ignored it, shrugged it off, or answered their question in a way that added something to the discussion.
So, if you can answer the question, I’ll be happy to shut up or take back what I said. In fact, I’ll be happy to take it back right now, with no strings attached. I was wrong to have impugned your knowledge and ability in the dog training arena. You clearly have a solid foundation in operant conditioning. And you clearly love dogs dearly, and are blessed with a great deal of knowledge and understanding of their nature. So, as someone who may know more about dogs than I do, what would your answer be to the question I asked?
Previous experience is a type of information, and information is always reinforcing behavior. So, the dog was going with his previous experience. The last time he was with the handler, he was in the parking lot. Perhaps he didn’t see the handler, the sound bounced around and was transient, while the dog was able to follow a scent trail back to the parking lot. We can’t know for sure why the dog ran back to the parking lot.
Yes Jenny I do appreciate your participation and so two questions after this point for clarity. The training incident I described isn’t an isolated case with the S&R dog, happens all the time in the work, particularly with softer dogs. And the dog was looking right at handler and me and not casting about due to an echo. When he heard his name, he was no longer confused because he felt exactly where he wanted to go. Now in regards to the experiment, how does a reinforcement interpretation account for the variability between dogs, babies, wolves and other species since all test animals receive the same reinforcements? Also, what is your definition of information?
hahaha, it ALWAYs happens on these blogs, people get pissy.
i think no one is truly going to undertand dogs, animals, themselves, until we have a better behavioural science model.
as Lee said on the other blog, this science is stuck in the 19th century.
it is not only variablity between dogs, wolves, babies, adults, but between different dogs (SOFT DOGS VS TOUGH DOGS ETC), and I am assuming all babies do not do the same thing, etc, all wolved do not perform the exact same way. then you have to look at external variables. is the subject of the study healthy > maybe a bug snuck in which is scewing the results..some subjects might be put off by the colour of the wall paper, others might not like the way the room smells, etc etc.
In other words, the sample sizes for these studies are usually too small to make any true statements for an entire species.
Equally this is true for operant conditioning.
we know we can use OC to train dogs.
We know it does not involve a lot of negative reinforcement so it seems to be gentle to the dogs. They are seemingly not opposed to learning this way, they do not go curl up in a corner when the clicker comes out…all those things are GREAT !
but we have not moved it along far enought to derive a complete, fully explanatory model for behavioural science from it.
or have we ? anyone correct me if I am wrong..
…and we know we can train dogs with negative reinforcement and also, with classical conditioning, luring etc etc…
Dogs seem to be relatively forgiving, even if a handler does not employ ideal strategies, the dogs still learn a lot. it seems, regardless of which type of conditioning and dog training is employed, if it is repeated many times, it can produce results.
just like a person who, if they put their minds to it, can read a text even if the letters are a bit garbled, as long as the first and last letter are OK…
but that does not help to explain the processes that go on within the animal/human. we see the training, we see the results, we do NOT see how a human, a dog, a dolphin, “decides” that this is a behaviour they will engage in IN THE MOMENT.
this is why we say a “Sit” is perfect when it happens +/-90 percent of the time on cue and within so many seconds of the cue being given.
we know we cannot count on it 100%, because given a sufficient level of distractions or other environmental factors that are not conducive to a “Sit”, (dog is ill, has a thorn in his butt..etcetc) we cannot get 100%. because.. haha.. a living sentient being is NOT a computer..
In other words, Kevin is trying to explain the processes at a very low level, bit by bit, using theories he has derived from his long years of working with dogs.
OC cannot now explain the processes in such detail.
I cannot even quite understand why OC people say, that DEFINITELY the processes are NOT what Kevin says, because from where I am sitting, the theories are not entirely incompatible.
…it’s like why give reasons why the earth has to be flat, when someone REALLY does not know and it is (to me) not a problem, to admit that and try to bear in mind that ROUND is a possibility ..until ROUND can be disproved… or verified…
Thank you Kevin, I can’t blame you for the way people seem to talk differently to each other when they aren’t face to face.
One way of knowing why the dog went to the base camp first, when I called him and he saw me, is to wonder about how I might train that on purpose.
If I were going to train that on purpose, I would build a history of reinforcement into a target of some sort, then I’d add a cue, and I could stand on top of the mountain, shout out the cue, and the dog would run to the target.
So, cars are often unintentionally trained as targets, or reinforcement stations. It is generally VERY reinforcing for a dog to jump into a car. And for some shy, soft dogs, especially if they have ever associated punishment with the handler, the car might be a more desirable target than the handler! Maybe the dog isn’t performing a very good recall, because there is less pressure to perform in the car. Maybe this soft dog isn’t quite suited to this job at this moment, and he here’s his name and thinks, “thank god we’re going home,” not in words of course, but he has that feeling of wanting to return to a safe warm place.
The environment trains us all, and continues to train, so the gets called again and realizes, in his doggy way, “oh duh, he didn’t mean go to the car. He’s not at the car. he’s way over there,” and so the next time this happens, the dog might not be so easily confused.
I think when you’re talking a trained dog, a dog who has learned to think about something, that behavior is also evidence of some sort of learning. This is a big area, the dog needs to be using his brain to perform his job, so the dog is using his nose, brain, physical sensations, sense of hearing and also his learning history to work for him.
And to add this dog might not be associating punishment with the handler, but just with the task at hand. It’s a soft dog, and a big job, and the dog was confused, and so turned on heal to get back to the “off duty” location.
KB: I want to emphasize that I’m a polemicist, I’m grinding an ax and so I am going to be argumentative in order to make my case. If I was a great writer, and if I wasn’t trying to be as brief as possible, what follows wouldn’t sound so terse but I’m not trying to be. I enjoy discussing the finer points of canine behavior.
At any rate, I think you are making as good as case as can be made for the reinforcement theory but my first objection is that if the dog did something as a function of unintentional training, then it wouldn’t have been confused. It would shift seamlessly from one conditioned pattern to another. So it leaves begging the question what is going on inside a dog that is confused.
Also, this was not a shy/soft dog, and his handler had a great touch and rapport. It was a police dog that was at the medium end of the acceptable spectrum for the work so that you could see him become deflected when not yet in high drive, as opposed to bulldogged straight-ahead, and this manifested in the S&R as going around a dense tangle (when confused) rather than plowing straight through. This didn’t disturb me because the dog bit like an alligator and the prey drive always hardens behavior. A long distinguished career with felony apprehensions, great tracks, certificates and letters of citation justified my faith in the dog. At any rate states of confusion are inevitable in S and R training because you can’t control the wind and the effect of topography on scent cones and the best laid plans don’t survive contact with reality. So my claim is that this was a well-trained dog that at this phase in its training could be off-lead under any and all conditions and so this should be discounted from an interpretation of the phenomenon.
My problem with your interpretation is that even if we say we’re not putting it into human terms, by default we’re still talking about a psychology because the canine mind is not a vacuum. Something is going on inside the dog and in the absence of a model, a psychology is unavoidable which is why all behavioral research is focused on the brain and the brain alone.
The problem a psychology of canine behavior is going to run into is that it is articulating a string of thoughts that is completely arbitrary. Since everything is a reinforcement if it reinforces, and since in this dog’s case being with its handler was absolutely the greatest reinforcement value in the world, why would he look directly at his handler but then run away from what represented the greatest reinforcement value in its mind? We could just as well say the dog was blowing off the handler, got to the car, decided this wasn’t going to get it home any faster because it didn’t think far enough ahead about needing the handler to drive the car, but then it did ponder about waiting for the handler to arrive rather than going back and running the risk of more problems to solve (as we subsequently did) since apparently its intention was getting to safety faster, but then it seems the dog discounted this possibility of hanging out by the car and instead decided to go back to its handler before it dug the hole any deeper.
Meanwhile there’s an obvious energy pattern visible in everything a dog does and it’s obscured when thoughts and intentions are read into the dog’s actions. I’m arguing that dogs go by feel. This means that they don’t see, hear, taste or sense the world directly. First there is a trigger of the emotional battery. A feeling arises from the battery and then the dog hears, sees, feels, and senses its reality. When a dog becomes confused, first lessons have priority over later lessons, until and unless a new lesson is implanted in the battery that has more intensity and grounding value than the first lesson and thus resides even deeper.
Eventually this dog was no longer confusable, no matter how hard the problem it was working out, the dog became excited about searching for the scent when there was not yet one, or after it had lost the one it had found, in other words the dog was always grounded and motivated by the greatest reinforcement that any dog can possibly desire, potential energy. Potential energy is far more powerful than real energy and it is more valuable because it fulfills the fundamental mandate of any organism which is to to evolve by adding new energy to the network.
Another way of saying this is that dogs always go with the strongest feeling just like a compass always points toward the strongest magnetic field. This holds true for any and all behavior and can also compute for variability within Temperament, between the temperaments of dogs, between the behavior of any given dog, between the reinforcement values of various stimuli, as well as the comparative behavior between species and then finally the social organization of canines.
A reinforcement theory is not able to account for variability between behaviors and between species without inventing a psychology (even for the genes of a species) that gets more and more complex and self-contradictory the more phenomena it tries to contain.
I would also like to add that a state of confusion is not a thought, a state of knowing is not a thought, sensing a pull in any given direction is not a thought; the sense of flow, joy, love, desire, are not thoughts, in short, a feeling is not a thought and has nothing to do with thoughts.
Kevin, some semantics – is a feeling something that arises from the operation of the physical senses (smell, touch, taste, hearing, seeing), or in your lexography do the senses operate, and cause a change in the emotional battery, then the feeling arises from the change in the emotional battery? If the latter, why is the emotional battery a necessary element? (e.g., is it a more of a metaphor–an abstraction–that you use to account for differences between individuals, breeds – different capacities, thresholds, etc.)
Another couple of semantic questions, when you say that a dog is “grounded” does that mean that the energy in his emotional battery has been released (or is the battery simply connected to something in a manner that will allow the stored energy to be released, as is the case with a real battery?)
Also related to that, when you say that a dog is motivated by “potential energy” – I am getting confused because by definition potential energy is “already stored (but not yet released) energy” – ie, a “full” battery. So in the case of a full battery…if the dog was already grounded, the energy would already be in the process of being released and I am not sure where the motivation comes in (I am assuming that the dog being awake represents the switch that allows the current to flow?)
I am just trying to get the terms straight so when I read what you write, I can be (sort of) sure that I am getting the information you are conveying, vs. guessing and getting it wrong (and further confusing my poor puppy 🙂
I can’t agree that all behavioral research is focused on the brain and the brain alone, in fact, behavioral research doesn’t focus on the brain at all, but only on observable behaviors (so if a dog’s brain was hooked up to electrodes and you could actually see the behavior of the brain patterns, then I suppose that could be behavioral research).
I think a lot does depend on how you define energy. Can you see energy via the canine movement? That’s the same thing that behavior research does, is observe and measure and interact with observable behavior.
I know what you mean about your first statement, being a polemicist, and I think that’s a waste of your talents! But have fun with it in any case.
Not sure if this is the right place to note this, but my dog and I have been enjoying putting some of the suggestions into practice. He took the the pushing exercise without any hesitation. It took him a while to really play tug with me. I wish I had a video recording of the first time he really let go and used his 100 lbs of strength to tug and I let him win (instead of the old rules of “owner always wins and takes the toy”)- he was so thrilled he did a big, bouncy loop of the yard like a doggie boomerang, and had to do it a few more times to be sure it wasn’t a mistake!
KB: “The training incident I described isn’t an isolated case with the S&R dog, happens all the time in the work, particularly with softer dogs.”
…so can someone try this exercise again, and leave the door or window of the car open, see if the dog will get in the car and wait there, rather than run back to the handler,
when the inside of the car is accessible to the dog.
i guess that would mean the dog has more feeling in that instance for the car than for the trainer.
I would say because being inside the car feels safe(r) to the dog…like a den…
so in your energy theory, how is the energy of a thought exactly different from an energy of a feeling…
I found this (entertaining?) quote on the internet , by a guy called Mark Pettinelli..
Emotion Is a Combination of Feeling and Thought
“By a combination of feeling and thought I mean a combination of what it feels like to have a thought, with the feeling of what it feels like to have a feeling – I don’t mean the combination of actual verbal thoughts with feelings, but non-verbal thoughts which are like verbal thoughts in that they are about something, you just can’t identify what it is all the time because it is non-verbal”
Or how about this one from http://www.alldepressiontips.com/depression-questions/difference-between-thoughts-feelings.php
“Scientists now know through the use of experiments and clinical observation that thoughts, feelings, and perceptions coexist as a unified whole and cannot be easily teased apart.”
(Heather) Kevin, some semantics – is a feeling something that arises from the operation of the physical senses (smell, touch, taste, hearing, seeing), or in your lexography do the senses operate, and cause a change in the emotional battery, then the feeling arises from the change in the emotional battery?
KB: Yes the latter sequence is exactly right, the stimulus triggers the battery and this generates a feeling.
(Heather) If the latter, why is the emotional battery a necessary element? (e.g., is it a more of a metaphor–an abstraction–that you use to account for differences between individuals, breeds – different capacities, thresholds, etc.)
KB: It’s not a metaphor, I mean it literally. The emotional battery is necessary so as to energize the dog’s body/mind in a manner that induces it to connect with other “like-minded” beings in an organized manner.
This is where we can begin to make distinctions between emotion and feeling. Emotion is release from a constitutional state of tension induced by the two/brain makeup, again the need for the body/mind as a bipolar emotional battery. Then the battery is filled with unresolved emotion as the animal meets with resistance to the expression of emotion. Unresolved emotion in the battery now serves as a tuning device because it-can-only-get-out-the-way-it-went-in, the individual does not have volition over its emotional battery, rather it takes the exact same degree of intensity from an external stimuli to activate any given strata of physical memory. So it can only go out the way it went in.
Furthermore, it’s a motivation to be social because only by aligning with others can unresolved emotion be resolved. If the individual fails to align with others, then it acquires even more unresolved emotion and feels even more charged: i.e. incomplete.
The build up of a charge is necessary so that the individual builds up force to overcome and/or make contact with more complex sources of resistance. When unresolved emotion is being released and then meets with resistance, this then goes back into the battery and comes out as sexual energy, and a sexual makeup is also implemented by the bipolarity inherent in the emotional battery. Out of the sexual energy comes Drive and this is significant because it means that two batteries are now coupled, in other words, the individuals of the group are now but cells in the group as a larger battery, one that now has a combined net charge and is thus capable of addressing even greater objects of resistance, such as large dangerous prey, or human beings. Finally, the battery as a tuning device also serves as an emergency reserve so that that which caused resistance, can be overcome, or if can’t be overcome; then avoided. This solves the problems as to how to make a killing as well as how to avoid being killed.
Understandably it’s hard to hold the whole thing in mind at one time, but the emotional battery is responsible for every level of behavior, the same simple dynamic constantly elaborating into higher and higher expressions of sociability.
(Heather) Another couple of semantic questions, when you say that a dog is “grounded” does that mean that the energy in his emotional battery has been released (or is the battery simply connected to something in a manner that will allow the stored energy to be released, as is the case with a real battery?)
KB: Grounded means that the little-brain-in-the-gut can process the nerve energy of the Big-Brain-in-the-head, and at every level of elaboration. So were emotion to not meet with resistance, then the dog is grounded into its body. For example a simple object of attraction such as a tidbit of food. A dog can also feel grounded if unresolved emotion is being released toward a complex object of resistance and not meeting resistance, and so the dog feels grounded into another being. This is simple prey-making behavior. Finally, when sexual/drive energy is being released and not meeting resistance toward an even greater object of resistance, then the dog feels grounded into its group. This we would observe as wolves hunting or dogs working at the various things that Temperament evolved to do in the various breeds of dogs.
(Heather) Also related to that, when you say that a dog is motivated by “potential energy” – I am getting confused because by definition potential energy is “already stored (but not yet released) energy” – ie, a “full” battery. So in the case of a full battery…if the dog was already grounded, the energy would already be in the process of being released and I am not sure where the motivation comes in (I am assuming that the dog being awake represents the switch that allows the current to flow?)
KB: A full battery is a state of incompleteness. The battery returned to neutral is a state of wholeness. So when the battery is full, this indeed is potential energy because it is a built up charge and by feeling incomplete, the individual is driven to connect with things so that it can reduce the charge to neutral. But once the battery is full of fused emotional values, i.e. becomes formatted as but one cell in a larger battery, then it can only be returned to neutral by aligning with others in order to overcome an object of resistance that can drain the combined energies of the group, and such an object of resistance is also potential energy. So the emotional battery facilitates like-attracted-to-like (potential energy to potential energy) and then differentiating two individuals in an interaction so that they can complete the emotional circuitry. So while like-is-attracted-to-like, only opposites can connect. In other words, the completed emotional circuit can only occur if that which is alike can differentiate in a complementary way. And so the two poles of predator and prey, (these comprise the emotional battery: predator trait projects energy and the prey trait absorbs energy) must become overtly manifest in order for two beings to connect. Therefore if the prey doesn’t act like prey, the predator can’t act like predator, the same being true of male/female, and then complex personality derivations as well.
If this isn’t clear please ask for clarification.
I do think it’s not complicated (it’s simple, but not easy) to tease apart our own thoughts, feelings, and perceptions by personal observation. By thoughts I mean self-centered ones, which animals do not have, ie, thinking about onesself and separating “self” from “not self”, that enables one to have thoughts like “that is unfair, that makes me mad, he had no right to do/say that to me”.
Emotions rise up after a self-centered thought, in response to it, and are manifested as tension in the body. We can feel that tension/energy in the body, just as we can sense what is going on “externally” through the senses. By just being aware of the body, and noticing/objectively labeling the self-centered thoughts that come from the mind as they arise, it becomes quite clear that the thoughts are “unreal” – imaginary – and mostly unnoticed (maybe that’s what he means by non-verbal), we can notice and release the tension, and move on to responding to the *actual* situations presented to our senses (vs. the ones we manufactured).
The way I am thinking of it based on what I’ve read of Kevin’s theory is that dogs simply go directly to responding to the actual situations based on their physical memories. The way they unerringly mirror human energy is proof enough for me that they aren’t having self-centered thoughts and reacting to them the way we are (ie, the thoughts that begin with “I”).
Kevin, I think I am comprehending, but have printed out your reply and I have to read it through again when my mind is not sluggish and tired! I am not knowledgable enough about/experienced with dogs yet (this is my first dog, he is 7 months now)…so I’m struggling to make sense of the things in a dog’s world that are attractive, resistive, etc. (I have been a lifelong cat person) and then circling back to the theory. It will be a long process I am sure. Already though Happy has really benefitted, and I have unexpectedly reconnected with my meditation practice after many years.
The very first step is to try and see everything your dog is doing as a function of attraction. When behavior appears smooth, then the dog isn’t experiencing much resistance because he’s feeling “magnetic.” When your dog appears “electric,” then he is experiencing resistance. If you just stay with this part, then the subsequent building blocks will one by one come into view in the more complex behaviors. And this doesn’t have to be an abstract exercise, the very same thing is happening within your body/mind as well. In fact the best way to reacquaint yourself with your animal mind is to pay attention to what you’re experiencing when driving a car. Since a car is an energy system, and since you project your e-cog out of your body into the c-o-g of the car, your animal mind is running the show. You can begin to make distinctions between emotion, feelings, instincts and thoughts. Eventually, you will be able to do this when watching dogs and animals as well.
So ideally most time is spent in that smooth-running state like one of those round a/c electromagnet motors? Vs. in a state where parts are overheating because there is too much resistance (either the internal parts malfunction or were not designed right, or something external overloads it?)
I believe I understand the confusion/resistance that caused Happy’s (seemingly) unpredictable jumping and nipping behavior outside, especially around toys. If I am off, let me know: When we would go out to play, in his mind he was very confused about whether we were playing or confronting/fighting, based on the way we interacted with him. We had this crazy notion (didn’t get it on our own!) that we had to stop playing periodically and command him to drop the toy (of course enforce that command even gently by taking it or we would be bad leaders), and always stop the game and end up with the toy. So here he is all energized, wanting to play, and he receives signals that we are fighting with him over the prey object. He has no desire to fight with us, yet he has all this charge to get rid of but doesn’t feel that he can let it go by biting the prey object (apparently we don’t approve)…he had no idea what to do when he sees a toy, so all that confusion just overloads him and he jumps and bites the other thing he is attracted to (us). The resulting confrontation/scolding is even more confusing and reinforces the negative cycle. Poor guy, being outside with us was so incredibly stressful, though he would try and try to sort it out.
The good news is that ALL of that confusion resolved in a few days of playing tug and letting him win. Now I have one very clear example in my mind that I think will be useful as we encounter different situations. All of that wasted time in a misguided attempt to be a good leader…I should have known, I went through the same thing when I got advice to let my babies “cry it out”, you think I’d learn….
(Heather) So ideally most time is spent in that smooth-running state like one of those round a/c electromagnet motors? Vs. in a state where parts are overheating because there is too much resistance (either the internal parts malfunction or were not designed right, or something external overloads it?)
KB: Right, an electromagnetic motor is constantly flipping polarities in order to do work. So as you say, when there is too much resistance, or the internal parts are damaged (other than disease, they’re never badly designed) then the dog is overheating. But when the internal dynamo is smooth running, thus we observe a dog self-modifying its deportment and manner to fit with the situation or object of attraction. He willingly does this because he feels new energy by being so accommodating.
(Heather) I believe I understand the confusion/resistance that caused Happy’s (seemingly) unpredictable jumping and nipping behavior outside, especially around toys. If I am off, let me know: When we would go out to play, in his mind he was very confused about whether we were playing or confronting/fighting, based on the way we interacted with him. We had this crazy notion (didn’t get it on our own!) that we had to stop playing periodically and command him to drop the toy (of course enforce that command even gently by taking it or we would be bad leaders), and always stop the game and end up with the toy. So here he is all energized, wanting to play, and he receives signals that we are fighting with him over the prey object. He has no desire to fight with us, yet he has all this charge to get rid of but doesn’t feel that he can let it go by biting the prey object (apparently we don’t approve)…he had no idea what to do when he sees a toy, so all that confusion just overloads him and he jumps and bites the other thing he is attracted to (us). The resulting confrontation/scolding is even more confusing and reinforces the negative cycle. Poor guy, being outside with us was so incredibly stressful, though he would try and try to sort it out.
KB: Yes you’re exactly right. In fact this is how you train a protection dog. Get the dog all aroused over a prey object, and then confront (resist) his access to it. This kicks in fight drive.
To put what’s going on between you and Happy strictly in terms of the emotional battery and its operating principle of: It-Can-Only-Go-Out-The-Way-It-Went-In, when you made yourself the source of resistance, the physical memory of unresolved emotion that got stuck can only come out by “challenging” you. And then, no matter what happens, even if you correct the dog, because it got the chance to vent and release some of the pressure even if it was but one millimeter and only for but one millisecond before the boom was lowered, the dog does feel better and this is the number one reinforcement that the dog carries away from the encounter. Fighting against its owner equals relief. Now if you’re a really dominant person, the dog may never ever “challenge” you again, but you will notice that as time goes by, this stuck energy starts coming out in situations of equal intensity but now toward less powerful objects of resistance (kids, other dogs, thunderstorms, etc.).
(Heather) The good news is that ALL of that confusion resolved in a few days of playing tug and letting him win. Now I have one very clear example in my mind that I think will be useful as we encounter different situations. All of that wasted time in a misguided attempt to be a good leader…I should have known, I went through the same thing when I got advice to let my babies “cry it out”, you think I’d learn….
KB: Right, when babies cry it out, they’re doing violence to themselves. When you let your dog win, he gives you credit so to speak for his feeling good. I’ll try to put a video post on site soon about turning tug-of-war into “push-of-war” which is the next step in turning play into full bore prey-making so that you can become the moose your dog always wanted you to be. Thus you can be the source of resistance but now it doesn’t trigger an emotional collapse, but rather induces even more energy and with the balance circuitry becoming a tuning meter rather than a danger indicator. The dog is no longer fighting against you, it’s fighting with you. Now you’re both on the same team and when you think about it, you have to be on the same team if you want to be the “leader.” In such a relationship you can have your cake and eat it too because the dog is getting what it wants by doing what you want.
What fantastic insight, thank you so much for the response!
This has been an interesting post and comments.
I am legally blind, and I do think I have had many instances in my life when I sensed my sight was not up to the need at hand and I felt a need to seek a place of more security. This is probably an archetype of some sort for all creatures. In the night when our senses fail us, we seek a secure place where we might feel better.
Maybe another way to speak is that when our conscious sensory awareness is unreliable, our unconscious emotional battery of feelings becomes more active in our behavior.
I wonder… As I understand it, we have 25% of our brains devoted to visual perception. A dog is color blind and I (naively) presume has less visual acuity than us(?) Again I naively presume dogs’ olfactory sense gets brain space that human anatomy gives to sight.
The police training dog episode (dog at 200 yards) may be an example where all sensory perceptions were weak and the dog needed security for a courage boost. So much as KB says the dog relied on feelings. We call it getting our courage up – feelings too.
Kevin, is it possible the sun was in the dog’s eyes or he just couldn’t see or smell his trainer?
Heather that is amazing that you let your kids cry as per advice from pediatrician ?
the same thing happened to my sister-in-law, and my mother and father in law felt very guilty afterwards, (basically spoiling her rotten as a result…) but she is 65 now, i thought experts would have stopped recommending this by now…
Burl, I think the dog was able to hear the handlers in the example of the (grassy?) knoll…
what I really like about Kevin’s ideas is the deemphasizing of time spent on obedience exercises such as Heeling, Fetching, whatever, and spending a larger amount of quality dog time with play or just being with the dog without trying to teach them anything.
because this is how I manage my dogs anyway, and all my friends do not, so i just found someone who is a professional dog trainer and gives me a legitimate theory to keep doing what i a doing…so I stick like glue…
…haha no, but after 3 years of agility, obedience, clicker training etc. I enjoy training my dog, but I enjoy MUCH more just being together, chuck a ball, swim, run in the snow or in the bush. go where one can meet other dogs…preferably off leash…etc.
Next weekend I am going to clicker expo in portland, and my little dog will be able to go with me EVERYWHERE in the building, attend all sessions and also get a few training lab sessions to see if she is still trainable after all this time Momma spent on explicitely NOT teaching her anything…
this will be so cool. I wish our society allowed dogs in more places.
No. The dog was looking straight at the handler, wasn’t smelling whatsoever and then ran straight for the patrol car at least 1/2 mile away. As I mentioned, this isn’t uncommon in such training and speaks to the animal mind going by what it feels, which then determines what it sees, hears, etc., rather than directly by what it sees, hears, etc.. It’s a very important clue that gives us direct entry into the canine mind and is completely consistent with everything a dog does once we apprehend the significance of a moment being forever, and therefore that a dog has no idea how, when or why anything happens.
Happy really, really enjoys the pushing exercises.
FWIW, 1/2 of german shepherds are nearsighted, and the average dog’s vision is 20/75. From
I have a hunch that that dog could not see you two clearly and got scared/confused do, as I think you correctly theorize, he needed to seek a place to gain a feeling of certitude before taking action.
However, I am not sure why he couldn’t perceive you two by his heightened sense of smell.
I would give anything to share a dog’s mind for a few hours and see what their experience of the world is like…
so the misled doggies in the “Find the Hidden Treasure” experiment which Wolves are better at.
they go for the place where the object USED to be. are you surmising that the car is the place where the handler USED to be so it is comparable ?
I would say no.
because I am assuming that the dog was not rewarded for “finding” the handler in the car….so it is not comparable because the dog in the (other) experiment was rewarded for finding the object in the OLD hiding place several times before he witnessed it being moved, which did not seem to deter him from going to the OLD hiding place.
another explanation here is that the dog has learned to go to that OLD place, and has been rewarded many times so he is now conditioned to go there, to get the reward, whether an object is present or not.
for the wolf, the reward is the object, for the dog the reward is what they get from the handler. so maybe not so much “doggie stupidity” after all…
it would be great if we could scale down our mind to simulate processes in being with lesser consciousness. I think David Ray Griffin / Whitehead make excellent points such as:
that our consciousness and abilities to reason, to invent, to push the boundaries of our knowledge as a species, is such a departure if compared to other beings in nature, that it is difficult to explain how nature could come up with this. also that we are stuck with our inner lives, we cannot at random be conscious like a humanoid, or a dog or an amoeba etc. also stuck with our self-contradictory loops which should really not be there in such an evolved consciousness.
my friend made an interesting comment the other day and I had to agree.
He said I think God gave up on us long ago, if I were God I would have !
so maybe we are just unfinished. another abandonned step along the way. …the real state of the art humans with the state-of-the-art fabulous consciousnesses, are somewhere else..
I said, God may have abandonned us, but at least he left us dogs…which is after all god spelt (spelled?) backwards, (except this does not work in many languages)
No there was nothing wrong with the dog’s vision, he could see us as clearly just as he could see a deer or a fleeing criminal at a distance. The key to this phenomenon is that dogs go by feel, not by what they see. For example, every morning I walk with my dogs down to the chicken coop. There’s a big rock they get up on as I go in to feed and water the chickens, and then if there’s enough eggs, they both get one. Hexi will often peel off from the drive and run down to the rock if she feels I’m in any way heading in that direction. This morning, she ran all the way to the rock and then stared at the door as if I was just about to come out even though she had just left me and could always see me. She would look up at me 100 yards away and then resume her fixation on the door of the coop. Eventually she gives up. She has no idea how she ever gets an egg, all she “knows” is that if she wants an egg, somehow an egg comes true. Another easy was to experience this same thing for yourself is to stand in full view of a dog at the back door, and ring the buzzer and then the dog races away to the front door if that is the way people that ring the buzzer normally enter. You can do it over and over and the dog races away because of the “pull of emotion” which he feels and which is counter to what his eyes are telling him. Another variation on this theme is get a Doberman all wired about finding the fleeing criminal, and then have the helper stand in plain view. The typical Dobie typically runs right by and even back and forth until the helper moves and then conforms to the parameters of the dog’s feeling for the helper. Possums have tapped into this behavioral quirk in order to exploit the predator’s makeup.