Shaping of a behavior

Shaping – a source of new behaviors

It is impossible to reinforce a behavior before it appears.  It creates a problem in learning new behaviors, especially those that don’t  appear in the natural environment.  As a solution we shape behaviors. Shaping is the process of reinforcing successive approximations that will finally lead to desired behavior.

In order to shape a behavior we must have the skill to observe small irregularities in behaviors (e.g.: a horse who lifts his leg in a slightly different manner). We have to reinforce those behaviors that will bring us closer to the desired target, increasing criteria as we go on.