Power of the Conditioned Emotional Response

This Session is divided into two 45-minute parts with a 15-minute break between halves. Attendees interested in this topic are encouraged to attend both halves of the Session.

A conditioned emotional response (CER) is a classically conditioned response to a specific circumstance. We have all experienced conditioned emotional responses ranging from elation when the recess bell rang in school to anxiety faced with the smell of the dentist's office.

Animals develop CERs all the time. For example, many dogs develop CERs to the leash being clipped on, to car keys jingling, or to the sound of the refrigerator door opening.

Can you create new CERs deliberately? Lindsay Wood Brown, Director of Animal Training and Behavior for the Lynchburg Humane Society and a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member, will discuss first how to recognize animals' emotional responses, and second how to see and harness opportunities to create new emotional reactions.

Lindsay will explain how to use the clicker to condition powerful and desirable CERs, in the shelter environment and in everyday scenarios at home. Attendees will also learn about using the power of the CER to modify behaviors rooted in fear, anxiety, and some types of aggression.

Part 1 will focus on the relevant science and background information:

  • Affective neuroscience and cognition
  • Ethology
  • Animal behavior and how to recognize an emotional response

Part 2 will focus on how to use the knowledge gained in Part 1:

  • Links between neuroscience, ethology, and learning
  • Animal learning
  • Exploring the questions of can we and how do we change emotional responses
  • Implications and applications

Lindsay Wood Brown

Lindsay Wood Brown is a board-certified applied animal behaviorist (ACAAB) with a master's degree in animal behavior. Lindsay is a Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) course developer and has served as a KPA faculty member since 2012. Lindsay’s goal is to help behavior consultants and shelter professionals apply behavior-change science to their everyday professional lives. Her focus is on stripping labels, flipping prevailing ideas on their sides for a better view, and honing in on systematic ways to advance strategies.

Lindsay consults for animal shelters across the country and provides 1:1 mentorship opportunities for behavior consultants. She previously served as the Director of Operations for Lynchburg Humane Society in Virginia and as the Director of Animal Training and Behavior for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Boulder, Colorado.