When is a Reward Actually Rewarding?

Reinforcement learning is the bedrock of how we train animals and change behavior. But what do we know about the neurobiology of reinforcement?

The webinar is recorded and is suitable for pet owners, veterinary professionals, animal trainers, animal behaviorists, pet guardians, and anyone with an interest in the neuroscience of training and behavior.
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1.5 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) Available:

In This Webinar:

The behavioral literature on reinforcement learning has long demonstrated that it is not the reward (or punishment) per se that reinforces (or extinguishes) behaviors but the difference between the predicted value of future rewards (or punishments) and their realized value.

This is known as the reward prediction error (RPE) and is something that the brain is constantly updating. this webinar, we will start by taking a deeper dive into RPE - what it is, what it isn’t, and why an understanding of it takes us beyond the limitations of traditional learning theory, to a greater understanding of how animals learn.
We will then examine what we mean by reward.

When is a reward rewarding and when is it not? When our pets learn to perform a task, what is it that our pets are truly rewarded by? Is it food, toys, or social interaction, or could it be less transactional factors such as novelty or the effort involved in performing a task? Is it possible that transactional rewards can act as distractors and interrupt the learning process?

Learning Objectives
  • Participants will be able to differentiate between the types of reinforcers and the different impacts they have on brain processing.
  • Participants will be able to create structures of reinforcement for training behavioral cases to maximize learning.
  • Participants will be able to identify appropriate reinforcers for clients.
Meet the instructor

Kathy Murphy BVetMed, DPhil, CVA, CLAS, MRCVS

Kathy Murphy (BVetMed, DPhil, CVA, CLAS, MRCVS) is a veterinary surgeon and neuroscientist. She recently joined the Behavior Vets team as the Chief Scientific Officer.
She graduated from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons UK in 1999, initially working in mixed clinical practice before studying for two postgraduate clinical qualifications. In 2009 she was awarded a highly prestigious Welcome Research Training Fellowship to study for her Ph.D., in Behavioral Neuroscience, at The Queens College, University of Oxford, UK. She subsequently worked in the USA as Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Anesthesiology at the Icahn School of Medicine NYC; and is now back in the UK, where she holds a clinical-academic position as Director of the Comparative Biology Centre at Newcastle University and Director of Barking Brains Ltd (a neuroscience outreach program for the animal behavior and training community). Her clinical interest has always been anesthesia, and analgesia, since the age of 13yo and she has recently completed a residency at the European College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia. In addition to her primary career roles she was Trustee and Veterinary Advisor to the Rottweiler Welfare Association for 14 years, is a founder of Ethics First (a collective that lobbies for ethical decision-making in clinical practice), and is an Oversight Committee Member for the UK Dog Behavior and Training Charter, sits on numerous National and International boards, working groups and ethical review panels, and most of all love spending time with her own 5 dogs and her husband.
Patrick Jones - Course author