Sunday, July 21, 2013

TAG Think

By Rachel Olson

Sometimes what you learn at camp changes everything. Slowly, maybe you don’t even notice at first. But it can. And does. Like TAG thinking did to me. It starts out slowly, like those first couple weeks when you get home from camp when you really want to TAG someone. Or maybe do... Then maybe you find yourself going “well, if I do my homework then I can do ______.” Then you realize you are using Premack on yourself. And don’t care, in fact it might even be cool. So then you talk one of your camp friends into playing Premack games with you. One person sets a timer, work until it goes off, then get so much free time, and repeat. This becomes so popular it spreads to other camp kids, then non-camp kids, and needs shortened for better texting: Pmack tnt?? Plz!!


Fast forward a few years: you are now a counselor, for the same amazingly awesome camp. The camp that your whole life now revolves around. There are 28 things to do on the joint camp To-Do List. Most of which are excruciatingly painful and boring, like IRS paperwork. You know you are in good company when the first thing discussed is “How in the world are we going to do this?” So, we came up with a list of reinforcers, talked some theory and settled on a way to tackle the (almost literal) mountain. Our good ol’ buddy Premack. Funny how some things don’t change.


So what exactly is the Premack Principle? Basically, higher probability behaviors reinforce behaviors of lesser probability. We use this when training: the reward for releasing something is to have it back, or a cue for a favorite trick is used as a reward. But why should something that works so well have to be just limited to our dogs? My roommate and I used it in college: read a chapter then get to eat M&Ms, talk to each other, or watch a YouTube video. The possibilities are endless! Hate mowing? Follow it with a nap. How about cleaning the house or doing laundry? Follow by reading a chapter of your favorite book. Try it, you just may find yourself doing the unthinkable...like cleaning out the fridge or writing blog posts!