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Distraction

 

Techniques Conditioning > Distraction

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

When a subject is doing something they should not, find a way of distracting them from their current, unwanted activity.

Distraction includes:

  • An initial input that grabs attention (eg. a loud noise)
  • Action to move towards or away from the attentional item (eg. going to investigate)
  • Action that sustains attention for a sufficient period (eg. greeting person who made the noise)

Distractions that cause attraction, such as when moving towards something positive or interesting, are likely to sustain attention for longer than negative distractions that provoke fear.

Distraction is best done before the unwanted action begins. If the distraction is needed once the unwanted action has started, be careful when making the distraction something desirable.

Example

A dog owner who's pet tends to jump up at visitors carries biscuits when going to answer the door. The dog stops jumping up in order to investigate what the owner has in her hand.

A child begins arguing with its parent. The parent says 'is that somebody at the door' and the child goes to see. When they return, they have calmed down and the parent is able to talk more reasonably with them.

Discussion

When we are doing something we also sustain awareness for other, more important things that may demand our attention. We first keep an eye out for threats, then for things that we know we like, then for surprises and opportunities. If there seems likely to be a potential for harm or benefit, then we stop what we are doing and respond to the new stimulus.

A positive distraction, such as food, can cause unwanted conditioning. For example an owner who offers a dog food to distract it from barking may well teach the dog to bark when it wants food. A positive distraction that is not mentally connected with the unwanted action is less likely to cause problems. For example a 'coincidental' distant noise that distracts a barking dog.

See also

Distraction principle

 

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