What made you come to this website? What made you read this article? What made you interested in these stories? All questions we can ask ourselves why this happened. When we are young we ask ourselves many question we want answers for. Why is the sky blue? Why is water wet? Why do some plants move when you touch them? etc. Scientists for example, they ask themselves questions all the time to discover what we don’t know with factual studies.

Curiosity; desire to know

We are born with the desire to know everything. Why does this disappear? Im looking at a TedX presentation about “Can Curiosity be Taught” He explains that after kindergarten our curiosity changes to ask less questions. He explains that kids who ask a lot are considered annoying and therefor they are being asked to shut up so to say. He gives a very interesting question where he says.. if you have a question you wanted to know when you where very young and you could time travel back to this situation would you act differently when the teacher would tell you to shut up?

The whole point is that we come to this earth with a particular level of curiosity with experiences over time and consequences following them the curiosity will be less or more depending on the personality you have. Could we say that curiosity is the base of everything? The What if.. questions we ask them ourselves all the time. We are creatures that think more negative about situations than positive. Lets go into the what if it is good, what if this experience will get me further etc. Would we be more likely to do more of challenging choices? If the outcomes become more often positive than negative would we make more challenging choices in our existence? I believe so. This makes me wonder how animals work.

Every day I get to work by car. In summer time I’m planning not to do this anymore. Sweden is a lot better in the summer than the winter to be honest. It gets pretty cold here. Imagine this… I’m coming to work on my bike and discover that I have a flat tire. Of course at the this moment I forgot my tools what makes going home impossible unless I walk. I decide to ask a fellow coworker with the best car to bring me home. My coworker didn’t have an easy day and says no right away but after trying to convince him for 30 minutes he finally says yes to me. Arrived as my house I give him a thank you with 100 euros in his hand. He looks surprised and thanks me all of a sudden. The next day I ask him again to bring me home.. this time it doesn’t take me very long to convince him to bring me home in his beautiful car. This time I give him 25 euros. The day after I ask him again, he says yes right away. We even become better coworkers. This time I give him 75 euros. Day 4 arrives but this time he comes to me right before we all go home and asks me right away “He shall I give you a ride?” I look at him with a surprising smile and answer yes thank you. This time I don’t give him anything…. My question for you who reads this is, would you still bring me home on day 5?

Most likely you would keep bringing me home. The point here is that because you don’t know what you will get and how much you will get of it you find it highly reinforcing to bring me home. If I would give you the same amount all the time what’s not valuable enough to you, you start to ask yourself if you prefer to be home earlier today. If I wouldn’t give you anything 3 times in a row you won’t bring me home at all. When it becomes predictable its not interesting anymore. Can we say then that unpredictability is like curiosity? See as well Predictability vs Unpredictability.

When training animals we are always looking for the favorite reinforcement the animal would like to receive. If we don’t know what this species favourite reinforcement is we ask the internet. It helps we all agree but the question is if giving the favorite reinforcement all the time wouldn’t the animal get sick of it because its given to much? I like cheesecake but not nonstop. This makes me thinking because if the cheesecake comes once in a while but I don’t know when it becomes exciting for me. I just want to know if I will get it this time. I become curious. If the animal’s favorite reinforcer only comes ones in a while at the moments we want to make a clear point to the animal that they reach a great step forward we would make steps a lot quicker. Can you imagine you discover multiple favourites.

Recalls, Start of session signals, Call overs…

It works the same for all those behaviors. If we are variable enough the animals keep responding on high criteria to the given signal. For example: My plan is to do 5 call overs in a row. Sounds boring but what about we focus on the consequences just like B.F. Skinner says. First, I ask a call over, the group of animals respond and I give them all a hand full of food. The 2nd call over, this time I run away and give them a small bit of food. The 3th time I do a call over and send all individuals to different trainers to keep going. The 4th time I do a call over and send them all to another trainer who throws a big hand full in the exhibit spread over a big area. The 5th time I do a call over this time I give each 1 piece of food run away.

I keep the animals engaged to me because there is a high chance that they are wondering what will happen next. There is a particular curiosity in the animals where they want to now what’s going to happen. You can even encourage this curiosity so far that the animals will leave anything just to know what’s out there with the trainer.

Over time I have learned to plan a session before the session happens but more important to plan the consequence, if the animals show me a great unexpected response to a behavior I am training I want to give them the variety in positive consequences. By planning the consequence, you become more variable for the animal you work with what reflects in more engagement and a better relationship.

Curiosity does beat it all. You might have seen the Lion Recall video from Kolmården Zoo, Sweden. They once had a situation with a female lion having a wound in her neck. Unfortunately, they discovered this after they carcass fed them outside. What meant that the animals most likely ate an average of 200kg of meat. The keepers decided over time to ask a Recall. This recall has a criteria wherever this signal is given from they need to go inside. The exhibit is 5 acres and the pride is 10+ animals big. The normal criteria time is a minute but this time they had beaten the record by at least 20 seconds. If they are so full of food why would they run inside on such a high pace? The only answer I have is curiosity.

Curiosity is the base of the first experiences we have. The consequences makes you more or less engaged. The positive outcomes helps you to become more curious. Should curiosity be the favourite consequence for all?

The addiction to discover leads you to new paths.

Peter Giljam

“Thinking Outside the Zoo”




Peter is a passionate Animal Consultant that beside teaching you about Operant Conditioning makes sure you will go home motivated and inspired. Make sure you read his Bio!

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