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The Learner is Never Wrong

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Behavioral analysis, behavior change

When my family got a puppy for our teenager, my wife found all kinds of great behavioral resources to help us learn to manage the puppy’s behavior, house-train it, help it to learn to sit, or teach it to ring a bell when it needs to potty outside.

(This last one was harder for us than the others because our puppy loved to play with the bells!)

One of my favorite resources was this trainer’s advice for dealing with times when the puppy had an “accident” in our house on the floor.

He said that when our puppy has an accident or makes a mistake, roll up a newspaper and smack yourself with it.

Don’t smack the puppy. It’s your fault, after all!

In behavior analysis, there is a famous old saying that “the rat is never wrong,” since early research involved rats as subjects.

We don’t want to compare people to rats, so I prefer the more modern equivalent, “The learner is never wrong.”

This means that whatever behaviors and results you are getting from your team, department, division, or organization are due to the environment that has been created, not because of some flaw of your employees.

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