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Prompting and Fading

Prompting is the act of helping a behavior to occur. This is a useful way to start teaching a behavior. A coach who helps a small child hold a baseball bat, to teach a proper swing, is using prompting. Fading is said to occur when the trainer gradually withdraws the prompt. For example, the baseball coach gradually allows the child to feel more and more of the bat's weight, until the coach is no longer holding it. Eventually the child swings the bat alone. The prompt has been "faded away."

What is prompting and fading?

Prompting and fading is commonly used in dog obedience training. For example, to teach a dog to sit, one gives the command (sit) then forces the dog to comply with it by gently sweeping the arm into the dog's back knees from behind, so the dog's back legs buckle gently and its rump goes down to the ground. Meanwhile one holds the dog's collar so the head stays up. This forces the dog to sit. When the dog sits, the trainer praises it or offers it a morsel of food.

How is prompting and fading used in dog obedience training?

The command is a stimulus that eventually functions as an S+. The upward tug on the collar and the arm behind the back knees are called a prompt because they help or prompt the behavior to occur. The procedure of gradually removing the prompt is called fading. The prompt becomes weaker and weaker; it is "faded out." After about 20 repetitions there is no need to touch the back of the dog's legs; one says "sit" and the dog sits.

How did a city use prompting and fading?

Prompting and fading was used by one city when it switched from signs with the English words "No Parking" to signs with only an international symbol (a circle with a parked car in it and a diagonal line crossing it out). For the first three months, the new signs contained both the international symbol and the English words. Then the words were removed. People hardly noticed the transition to the new signs, because their behavior was transferred smoothly from one controlling stimulus to another.

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