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Mimicry

 

Techniques Conditioning > Mimicry

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

One way of shaping a subject is to physically show them what to do. If they can copy, they can learn from this method.

This is a good way of training humans. Animals, too, can be surprisingly able to mimic basic actions.

The principle with mimicry is to repeatedly perform the action and then reward any action that begins to be like what you are doing. For example if you lie down and then start to crouch, reward them. Show you are really pleased with their direction. Keep repeating and rewarding until they reliably copy you. Make a game of this, so mimicry becomes a pleasure for them.

Example

A dog owner teaches her dog to roll over on his back by rolling over herself.

A mother teaches her children how to cook by having them do the same things as her standing beside her.

Discussion

In many training sessions, the subject is confused. They simply do not know what you want of them. They are anxious to please you, but do not know what to do and might go through their repertoire of trained actions, effectively asking 'Is this what you want me to do?' At some point, they may also try copying you. When you reward them, they may then 'get it' (although this sequence may need to be repeated several times).

Animals do not have the language that we do. They learn by copying one another. Once they understand that this is a copying game, they may easily become excited and enjoy playing at it. Some animals are particularly adept at copying and may learn subtle routines. For example dogs sometimes learn by themselves how to smile, like their owners and can be seen turning up the corners of their mouths.

People of course are very good at mimicry and 'do it like this' demonstration is often a very effective way of teaching. Some people in particular like to act rather than listen to lectures or be told what to do. When they see what needs doing, many people will 'get it' far more quickly.

See also

Shaping, Modeling

 

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