Everyday Experiment: Wine Tasting

I use Behavior Analysis every day. I use it to keep myself healthy. I use it with my husband (yes, he knows and kind of loves it).

And then sometimes, I find discrete opportunities to use the science randomly throughout my life to make it easier, more fun, etc. I got such an opportunity recently when out on a Saturday with my husband.

This past weekend’s unsuspecting participant: Guy explaining wines at a “Summer Sparkling” wine tasting.

Target Behavior: To get this person to explain the wine details and origins to us.

Method: Use prompts (also known as “antecedents”) and feedback (also known as a “consequences”) to shift (or duplicate) his verbal behavior toward us. Here is how it went:

Opportunity 1: Gruet NV Brut Sparking Wine

Behavior: pour only (no explanation)

Opportunity 2: Raventos I Blanc Brut Cava

Behavior: pour only (no explanation)

Opportunity 3: Reisetbauer Brut

Behavior: pour only (no explanation)

Opportunity 4: Jean Lallement Brut Champagne Gran Cru

Behavior: pour only (no explanation)

Opportunity 5: Pehu Simonet Brut Champagne Gran Cru- pour

Insert Prompt= Eye Contact and “Hi there. And this is…”

Behavior: pour and explanation provided

Insert Feedback= “Thanks so much!”

Opportunity 6: Vilmart & Cie NV Brut Champagne Premier Cru

Pull back some of the Prompt= Eye Contact and, “Hi.”

Behavior: pour and explanation provided

Insert Feedback= “Thanks”

Opportunity 7: Pierre Peters Brut Champagne Gran Cru

Delay to see if behavior will occur without prompting. It does not and therefore again we insert a prompt= “Hi there. And this is…”

Behavior: pour and explanation provided

Insert Feedback= “Thanks so much!”


Discussion: Yea so I’m geeking out a little bit here but I think it’s important to show how Behavior Analysis is science. Its science that you can use every single day to get the behaviors you need from people. And it’s being done in a way that isn’t manipulative or sneaky. Everything is out in the open to be seen. What we manipulate is the environment in order to change how other people experience it. In this case we weren’t getting the behavior that we expected so we needed to add prompts and feedback to get it. And IT WORKED!

I realize that this sounds like common sense stuff but ya know what? People don’t do it. How many of us just would have turned to the other person next to us and said, “Ugh how rude is this guy? Does he want us to buy this stuff or not?” We would blame, make interpretations, maybe get upset. But what good does that do anyone? And this is the point in business as well. The reason we want our leaders to get this stuff is for this very reason. We don’t want to be thought of as lazy, rude or stupid. We just want our boss to set up our environment in such a way that we can’t help but be successful.

Now you’ll notice that we did something else during this little experiment. We tried to “fade” the prompting. Why? Because we want people to learn. If they aren’t doing what we want, we create the opportunities and reinforce.

I know what you are thinking, “do we really have to do all this every time? Our bosses shouldn’t have to hold our hands.” And you would be correct. There are several great techniques to ensure that true learning is occurring. Fading the prompts is one. Although I had high hopes for our Wine Pourer, with only a few responses under his belt, he still required prompting in order for us to get those explanations each time. With more opportunities however, we would definitely have seen him no longer need the prompting.

Overall, I would say that this everyday experience was a success in that we got what we needed:

Learned something about sparkling wine: CHECK!