Publication Date

July 1999


Posted with permission from the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Bevavior.


The popular novel and movie The Horse Whisperer are based on the work of several real-life horse whisperers, the most famous of whom is Monty Roberts. Over the last 50 years, Roberts has developed a technique for training horses that is both more effective and less aversive than traditional training techniques. An analysis of Roberts’ methods (as described in his book, The Man Who Listens to Horses) indicates a deep understanding of behavioral principles including positive reinforcement, timeout, species-specific defense reactions, ‘‘learned helplessness,’’ and the behavioral analysis of language. Roberts developed his theory and techniques on the basis of personal experience and folk wisdom, and not as the result of formal training in behavior analysis. Behavior analysts can clearly learn from such insightful yet ‘‘behaviorally incorrect’’ practitioners, just as such practitioners can benefit from the objective science of behavior analysts.



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