Poisoned Cues: Diagnosis, Analysis & Repair

Much is known about cues that are established using positive reinforcement and cues that are established using aversive events. However, much less is known about the effects when cues are established using a combination of positive reinforcement and aversive events (such as corrections or punishment). This phenomenon has been termed “the poisoned cue” by Karen Pryor, and Dr. Rosales-Ruiz presented lectures on the subject at early ClickerExpo conferences. Understanding the poisoned cue is very important for animal trainers, especially working with cross-over animals that have been trained previously using traditional or balanced methods.

For those familiar with the concept of a poisoned cue, the beginning of the Session will be a review. Then there will be new material demonstrating what has been learned about the poisoned cue in recent years. We will review some experiments demonstrating the effects of the poisoned cue with both animals and children. We will also discuss ways to identify if a cue has been poisoned. Sometimes, trainers blame poor performance on distractions or lack of motivation, when the culprit is actually a poisoned cue. Finally, we will discuss ways to overcome a poisoned cue if you discover that you have one.

Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz

Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz is an Associate Professor in the Department of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas. He obtained his Ph.D from the University of Kansas in 1995 under the direction of Dr. Donald M. Baer. He serves on several editorial boards, including the European Journal of Behavior Analysis and the International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy. His areas of interest include antecedent control of behavior, generalization, behavioral cusps, fluency-based teaching, treatment of autism, teaching of academic behavior, animal training, and rule- and contingency-shaped behavior.