Comment by tadamsmar on Altruistic parenting · 2016-04-04T17:30:51.186Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Those twins studies constitutes a low-power measurement of effects of whatever it is that parents in the broad population happen to be doing during the time period of the study. It should not be confused with a measurement of the effects of best practice. Many professional and parent-mediated interventions have been shown to have significant effects in random controlled trials or by other means that are not confounded by genetics. As a broad estimate, any intervention that health insurance will pay is such an evidence-based intervention and there are more outside of that category, the standard for which evidence-based intervention are cover vary from state to state, nation to nation. Some of these have long-term effects.

You write "barring...trauma". Is the definition of "trauma" broad enough to capture all the evidence-based interventions?

Comment by tadamsmar on Book Review: Kazdin's The Everyday Parenting Toolkit · 2014-12-10T15:41:58.990Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The link on "AI needing a caregiver" links to your profile and I can't find the post about AI needing a caregiver.

Comment by tadamsmar on Book Review: Kazdin's The Everyday Parenting Toolkit · 2014-12-09T19:52:11.309Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thoughts in relation to AI learning...

Parents tend to be a bit obsessed with setting limits. Setting limits is sometimes necessary, but parents tend rely too much on reacting to limit crossings. If you trained a robot by only reacting to limit crossings then the robot might well spend all it's time bouncing off the limit.

Think of a limit as a border on a region of acceptable behavior. The Kazdin method relies on incrementally (in small behavior shaping steps) drawing the child toward the optimal point in that region of acceptable behavior. If you train a robot this way, then the robot will tend stay sufficiently close to the optimal location, well away from the limits.

Comment by tadamsmar on Book Review: Kazdin's The Everyday Parenting Toolkit · 2014-04-11T02:02:33.025Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I still don't think you are reinforcing separation. You are not giving them a tangible or intangible reward when they separate. Also, I don't see that the mere act of separating them will alienate them from each other.

But I can see that it's plausible that there might be a better strategy than separating them.

Comment by tadamsmar on Book Review: Kazdin's The Everyday Parenting Toolkit · 2014-04-10T20:03:45.270Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You mention inner motivation, competing children, conflict/violent outbreaks. I don't think you yet have a proper analysis of this violent behavior.

I don't think of competition as bad in and of itself. Kids can compete to improve in the direction you want them to improve and you can direct sometimes this process merely by directing your attention toward the preferred behavior.

The violent conflicts are probably not caused by inner motivation. It probably the kids motivating each other's behavior. The problem is that, like inner motivation, it's not your behavior that is reinforcing the conflict, so it can be a bit harder to address. The dynamics might be the Patterson Coercive Cycle, only between two siblings rather than a parent and child:

I think the usual approach is to separate the kids. Why do you say "reinforce separating them"? You probably are not reinforcing the conflict by separating them. It probably puts conflicts on extinction if you put them both in time out.

Otherwise, you'd have to make sure the aggression does not get it's reward. That is possible but seems hard. Or you could come up with alternative behaviors that had the same function as the aggression, but I don't have any good ideas on how to do that, but you could come up with competitions that are less likely to lead to aggression.

Also, this Kindness Chart, or something like it might help:

Inner motivation is a different issue, I think. Typically you change the behavior to a better one that fulfills the same inner motivation.

Comment by tadamsmar on Book Review: Kazdin's The Everyday Parenting Toolkit · 2014-04-10T19:22:36.567Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

One thing you did not discuss is fading. Fade tokens to just use praise and positive attention. Fade constant praise to occasional random praise. Random reinforcement makes a habit more robust and less prone to extinction. (I think of fading as moving toward occasionally reminding the kid that the behavior is evidence of his good character, his virtues, but I a not sure that is explicit in Kazdin's book.)

A central idea is catch them being good and reinforce. Then, after a period of constant reinforcement, fade. If the target behavior does not happen then you can't just catch them doing it. So, use methods to get it started: simulation, prompting, token reward charts. (Also, you might shape if starting with some existing behavior.)

Prompting is a technique to get more compliance to commands. Get close to the kid, speak calmly, touch, don't use a question. Avoid prompting more than a few times (3 or 4) without compliance (nagging). Instead, come up with a different strategy.

Comment by tadamsmar on Book Review: Kazdin's The Everyday Parenting Toolkit · 2014-04-08T18:09:20.665Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The term punishment kind of tricky in this context. Kazdin is a behaviorist writing a parenting book. In behaviorism, the term has a different meaning from it's typical use by parents.

In behaviorism, "positive" means adding something, and "negative" means taking something away. A reinforcement increases a behavior, a punishment decreases a behavior. So in behaviorism efficacy is built into the definition, if it does not decrease behavior then it's not a punishment.

In parenting, punishments are typically used incorrectly, overused, have bad side effects. And, most importantly, it's often not the best alternative because research has found better alternatives. Also, parents are reinforced to punish because they tend to be rewarded with short-term reinforcement, so it can be part of a vicious cycle. What parents consider a punishment might actually be reinforcement, for instance (1) yelling at your kid can make you look like a vanquished foe (2) if the kid can divert the parent into a predictable punishment mode, the parent might not follow through on something that the kid wanted to avoid even more.

If I recall correctly, Kazdin's does not tell parents to never use short-term grounding (or withdrawal of privilege), and that's a negative punishment in behaviorism. He says long-term grounding is no more effective and just causes resentment with no extra benefit.

Comment by tadamsmar on Book Review: Kazdin's The Everyday Parenting Toolkit · 2014-04-08T15:39:16.850Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Another issue with punishment is that it amounts to an attempt to replace a behavior with nothing (as was pointed out the the main article). Behaviors exists because they have a function, but mere elimination means the function is not addressed. Tends to be better to replace the behavior with something that has the same function. For instance, replace an unwanted behavior that functions to get attention with a wanted behavior and give that attention, so that the wanted behavior fulfills the existing function.

And as you point out, punishment tends to train avoidance of the parent and sneakiness.

In summary, punishment has bad side effects and it's not a tool for building up a system of wanted behaviors.

Comment by tadamsmar on Things I Wish They'd Taught Me When I Was Younger: Why Money Is Awesome · 2014-01-20T13:48:07.226Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good point, I was trying to briefly summarize Marcuse's view but I did not do a good job.

Marcuse view was that we think of ours as a materialist culture, but we are beyond the need for material goods in the sense that our productive capacity far exceeds our needs (but of course, we distribute unevenly so that there are still some in material need.). Demand is driven by emotional needs rather than material needs. And the stuff we buy often does not satisfy the emotional need, hence demand becomes unbounded.

But a musical instrument is perhaps something that can lead to emotional fulfillment.

(Marcuse was a sort of neo-Marxist and was pushing the idea that the capitalist system exploited this to create unbounded demand. I don't mean to push that view, I just think some of the premises of his argument have merit and is relevant to the topic. After all, some of the pre-capitalist rich seemed have an unbounded desire for riches.)

Comment by tadamsmar on Things I Wish They'd Taught Me When I Was Younger: Why Money Is Awesome · 2014-01-17T15:36:08.566Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Trying to channel Marcuse from memory, here goes: We have a finite need for money. We need it for is adequate food and shelter. But unsatisfied emotional needs can be effectively unbounded. It's possible for the culture to convert the things that money can buy into something that we seek because of unsatisfied emotional needs. From hence flows the unbounded need for money.

Marcuse would substitute "capitalist" for "culture". But perhaps it's just something about human nature. Perhaps it's the dopamine system in our brains. Not sure why it works this way (assuming it does indeed work this way).

Comment by tadamsmar on A brief history of ethically concerned scientists · 2014-01-16T17:18:36.687Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As you point out, Szilard took steps to keep his nuclear chain-reaction patent secret from the Germans. He later took steps that led the US government to start preventing the open publication of scientific papers on nuclear reactor design and other related topics. (The Germans noticed when the journals went quiet.)

Right after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he thought the US government was putting out too much public information on the A-bomb. He even thought the Einstein-Szilard letters should remain secret. His idea at the time was the US government should reveal almost nothing and use the promise to reveal as a bargaining chip in an effort to get an international agreement for the control of nuclear weapons.

Szilard's secrecy about the neutron chain-reaction made it hard for him to get anyone to help him work on making nuclear energy practical between 1934 and 1940. So, it arguably slowed down everyone, not just the Germans.

Source is the Szilard biography "Genius in the Shadows"

Comment by tadamsmar on Ignorance in parenting · 2014-01-16T15:18:17.401Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I focused on behaviorism, but I just wanted to mention that The Incredible Years is a good evidence-based book that is not based soly in behaviorism. Kazdin's are the best books on behaviorism as applied to parenting. Incredible Years integrates a bunch of methods including behaviorism.

Here's a neat pictorial outline of the Incredible Years Program:

Here's the book on Amazon:

(There is also a cheaper 2002 edition on Amazon, not sure what the difference is.)

Here's the Incredible Years website:

Comment by tadamsmar on Should people require a mandatory license for parenting? · 2014-01-16T13:54:32.253Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The Family-Teaching Association certifies group homes in the use of evidence-based parenting methods. Everyone involved has to be trained and meet standards. These group homes have replaced what use to be call orphanages. A resident family-teaching couple has the role of parent for a group of kids. The organizations managing the group homes also provide support for troubled families as part of an overall system to deal with severe problems related to bad parenting.

So, at least, there is a licensing system geared to addressing the consequences of bad parenting.

Boy's Town is part of this system. It was an early adopter of evidence-based parenting that converted to family-like group homes in the 1970s. Perhaps a rare occasion when a religious organization was on the cutting edge of science.

Comment by tadamsmar on Should people require a mandatory license for parenting? · 2014-01-15T20:11:11.754Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Actually if it works as well as I claim, psychotherapy for kids might be less effective. It involves changing the kid's environment. Psychotherapy can't do that. You have to get the parents to be willing to change and give them training.

On the contrary, the fact that psychotherapy works at all is evidence that the operant conditioning methods I am pushing are not the whole story, and of course operant conditioning is not the whole story.

By your definition, medicine is not a sound science because stability overall in detail is not to be expected due to genetic variability.

Comment by tadamsmar on Should people require a mandatory license for parenting? · 2014-01-15T19:10:42.956Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree about psychology as a whole. How about the practical part of behaviorism, operant conditoning?

It's quantifiable and reasonably good at forecasts.

Surely you realize that stability across individuals if not really to be expected overall in detail. People don't always react the same in detail because of genetic difference (as an example). Stabilty is likely not evidenced for the most extremely genetically different individuals, and it is not to be expected. Environment and culture can lead to variations as well. Stability is not to be expected in general, you just need to explain variation.

Operant conditioning is the foundation. In parenting, add to that the discovery that adult attention is a powerful positive reinforcer for most children. The methodological advances in parenting are largely built on that foundation.

Comment by tadamsmar on Ignorance in parenting · 2014-01-15T17:30:07.229Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(how do I make those bars on the right indicating what I am replying to?)

"But it made me feel uneasy because it didn't (seem to) address the real issue. It looked like an easy way out. It did work but it also cost quite some time each time."

You can always address the real issue at some other time. The key is merely short-term timing, you don't want to react immediately in a way that reinforces the unwanted behavior with attention. Later, when the kid is not engaging in unwanted behavior your can address the real issue for hours on end if you want. Often the best way to address the real issue is to immediately react to the behavior that is the opposite of the unwanted behavior by having a long conversation about why the opposite is so good and commendable. Or, better yet sometimes, immediately ask the kid why he/she engaged in the good behavior and get them to tell you why they think it is good and all that. Kids love to have their parents listen to them, its a great social reward for wanted behavior.

"But the point still stands: If the children notice that you intentionally condoned than you relativize your consequence. You can only do this if a) you accept this lenience or b) are sure that the (small) child will not notice. And if the act is indeed harmless."

You are pretending to ignore. You are not condoning anything. The consequence is no attention. You are engaging in behavior shaping, notions like 'condoning" and "lenience" are not really categories in the behavior shaping process. Skillful behavior shaping is just the fastest way to accomplish lasting change according to the evidence. I my book, the fastest way to accomplish effective change is the direct opposite of condoning and lenience. I know this is not the way most parents think, but, in my opinion, it is the way to think. It does not matter if they notice it, the research shows it works whether they notice it or not.

Non-harmless unwanted behavior is a different matter, aggressive or significantly destructive behavior, it cannot be addressed by pretending to ignore. Redirection sometimes works. As a final resort use time-out, but most parents have no idea how to use time out. Time out is not a punishment, its just time-out from reinforcement. You can teach your kid to set in time out and reward them for executing a good time out. You can get the kid to practice time outs in advance of using it. Research show that time out works even if you award, praise, commend the kid for executing a good time out.

Parents tend to start the time out process with explanations. Explanations and face-time are time-in which is the opposite of time-out. Time-in, of course, tends to have the opposite effect of making the unwanted behavior more likely.

Parents tend to threaten time-out. Threatening time-out is time-in. Avoid threatening time-out.

When a time out is warranted, immediately initiate it with little or no talking and avoid looking at the kid. If you need to explain, say something short like "no biting". One minute per year of age is a good guideline for the length of time-out.

Also there are some gamification methods. Say a kid is doing head-banging tantrums or otherwise self-destructive or property-destructive tantrums. You can play a pretend game where the kid engages in "good" tantrums and you give him positive attention for "good" tantrums. Via this process instill the habit of good tantrums that can be ignored. Pretend games are a good way to trigger a wanted behavior that is not otherwise occurring so that you can start reinforcing this behavior.

Anyway this is advanced stuff, I refer you to the books of Alan Kazdin.

PS: You will probably find that it is easy to talk about why bad behavior is bad, but harder to come up with a long monologue or even a bunch of short comments about why specific good behaviors are good. It's worth working on this.

Comment by tadamsmar on Ignorance in parenting · 2014-01-15T14:56:52.119Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In evidence-based parenting, the reason for pretending to ignore in response to unwanted behavior is that adult attention is a positive reinforcer. It has nothing to do with authority or feelings about interference. It has everything to do with what works.

The research indicates that the best approach is to direct attention to wanted behavior and away from any harmless unwanted behavior that can be ignored.

The strategy of signaling that you notice, smiling at, gamifying, in response to unwanted behavior is grossly counterproductive.


Comment by tadamsmar on Some thoughts on having children · 2014-01-15T14:14:39.392Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Studies indicate that the normal range of parenting styles have little impact. But the normal range is grossly sub-optimal. So, this research says nothing about the impact of optimal parenting.

Scientific research on parenting has provided superior evidence-based methods that have not been widely adopted by parents due to poor technology transfer in this area. In fact., it's normal for parents chronically employ methods that have been known for decades to be counterproductive.

Certain behaviors are called "behavior traps". Once they are learned it's hard to unlearn them. The behaviors are intrinsically reinforcing and there is a behavioral barrier to unlearning them.

Not eating veggies seems to be a behavior trap. It's not uncommon for picky eating to start around age 2 become a lifetime habit. Parents tend to use counter productive methods in an attempt to address picky eating. Evidence-based methods are available but not widely used.

I conjecture that optimal evidence-based parenting methods have a huge impact on the outcome of adult unhealthy eating behaviors.

Comment by tadamsmar on Some thoughts on having children · 2014-01-15T13:53:15.204Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would make a different argument than Pinker's in favor of the notion that parenting matters.

Studies show that the normal range of parenting has a limited impact on outcomes. I will grant that.

The normal range of parenting styles is dominated by sub-optimal parenting, so studying the normal range tells you nothing about the impact of optimal parenting methods. Scientific research has provided evidenced-based parenting methods that are superior to those commonly practiced, but the technology transfer has mostly failed, in particular when it comes to getting most parents to practice the most effective methods. In fact, parents commonly chronically engage in actions known to be counterproductive.

So the issue of whether optimal parenting would have a bigger impact is mostly an open question.

Comment by tadamsmar on Should people require a mandatory license for parenting? · 2014-01-15T00:24:21.676Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I gave some specific references (Incredible Years, Triple P, Kazdin Method, Everyday Parenting by Kazdin). Have you checked them out?

Kazdin runs the Child Conduct Center at Yale and former president of the American Psychological Society. Incredible Years is a program developed at U of Washington.

What does it take to turn off your BS detector? I speculate that I can provide it.

There is also the Parent Management Oregon Model (PTMO) that originates with Patterson at U of Oregon. Patterson wrote the first evidence-based parenting book for a general audience (first that I know of) in 1977 called Living with Children. And, when he wrote it, some of the science was already 15 years old. That gets us back to 1962, which means you have 50 years of catching up to do. With any luck, I can set off your Future Shock detector.

In 1962, Montrose Wolf at U of Washington oversaw a series of interventions that showed that a care giver could reduce or increase specific child behaviors by 40-fold in 2 weeks. The method pretty much amounted to the caregiver cranking their neck in response to the kid's behavior, redirecting their attention in other words.

Comment by tadamsmar on Should people require a mandatory license for parenting? · 2014-01-14T21:13:32.582Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Turns out that some parents do require a mandatory license for parenting. A parent can end up before judge and be required to take a parenting course. These courses are all (as far as I can tell) evidence-based, developed and evaluated using sound science. Programs like: Incredible Years, Triple P, Kazdin Method.

Ironically, most parents, even those who read lots of parenting books, never encounter a parenting book that is primarily evidence-based. Most parenting books are opinion-based. The most recent evidence-based book that I know of is "Everyday Parenting" by Kazdin.

Comment by tadamsmar on Avoiding doomsday: a "proof" of the self-indication assumption · 2010-05-26T16:08:27.754Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The wikipedia on the SIA points out that it is not an assumption, but a theorem or corollary. You have simply shown this fact again. Bostrom probably first named it an assumption, but it is neither an axiom or an assumption. You can derive it from these assumptions:

  1. I am a random sample
  2. I may never have been born
  3. The pdf for the number of humans is idependent of the pdf for my birth order number
Comment by tadamsmar on Ugh fields · 2010-05-24T20:35:16.573Z · score: -7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I think these ugh fields are typically called "repressed memories". You are providing an explanation for them, saying that they are caused by conditioning (classical or operant? I am not sure.)