Today we combine observational learning, cats, and the Motor City Madman, Ted Nugent, to enhance our persuasion knowledge and skill, both theoretical and practical. Begin with Professor Nugent’s musical disquisition (YouTube) under a visual demonstration of our target Other Guys.
Properly scratched you may now enter our lesson today of Observational Learning for Cats and its implications.
The point of entry for our consideration today is Modeling Theory which includes related concepts of observational learning; vicarious learning; imitation; Monkey See, Monkey Do; and Comparison (When Others Are Doing It, You Should, Too). While there are many various, diverse, and crucial nuances between these labels, they share one commonality:
Other Guys will watch Other Guys and learn something.
Certainly common sense confirms this Truth, but precisely how, who, when, what, and why this happens is what separates the sheep from the goats, or the mavens from the apprentices. Consider: Do other animals besides humans Model?
E.L. Thorndike, a godfather of Learning Theory, argued from his own careful testing with cats that felines did not engage in Modeling. In 1898 – read that again because it is 1898 and not 1998 – Thorndike published a series of experimental studies, on cat learning with a side note on observational learning. Thorndike’s cats were completely disinterested in Other Cats.
Move forward to 1944, nearly 50 years, and Herbert and Harsh take up the challenge. They recruit 15 cats for a series of experiments on observational learning. Herbert and Harsh break the ethics of experimental research and name the names of participants!
Red, Tiny, Spike, Madame X, Miss White, Big Gray, Mammy, Toughy, Babe, Blackie, Tip, Tige, and Sis.
Standing on Thorndike’s shoulders, Herbert and Harsh discover that their cats do learn from watching other cats! But, it’s nuanced, baby. Here’s the summary.
(1) On problems within their normal range of ability, cats benefit from observing the learning process of another cat.
(2) Observation of fifteen skilled performances is much less beneficial than observation of the learning process.
(3) The relative advantage of observation of the learning process, as compared to observation of skilled performances, is greater when more incorrect manipulations of the problem mechanism are possible.
Modeling does Change the Other Cats, but when the Other Cats watch the Model learn, not perform. If you want to learn how to play the guitar you don’t watch Ted Nugent in concert, but practicing scales!
Herbert, M. J.; Harsh, C. M. (1944). Observational learning by cats. Journal of Comparative Psychology, Vol 37(2), Apr 1944, 81-95.
Thorndike, E. L. (1898). Animal Intelligence: An Experimental Study of the Associative Processes in Animals (Psychological Review, Monograph Supplements, No. 8). New York: Macmillan.
P.S. Maslow, Cattell, Emily, Doug, Creamy, Roma, Nick, Newton, Rocket, Demon-Flynn, Ming, Turk, Suge, Zeus, and Izzy. So far. We typically have 3 or 4 at a time and I can observe what Herbert and Harsh observe about cats observing each other. They do learn when they have cat models. In the rare times when we have just one cat, that one is slower. It’s not that Other Cats provide more information, they provide Behavior That Survives.
P.P.S. Do cats, like people, also model from media? More Research!