The Rat Is Never Wrong: Training with an Errorless Learning Mindset

We all know the saying, “We learn from our mistakes.” But, mistakes resulting from poorly designed training can be costly: Learners practice errors, which can make correct responding less likely, and learners can become frustrated as a result of the low rate of reinforcement. These costs led researchers and practitioners to ask, “Are errors really necessary for learning to occur?” 

Errorless learning is a term used to describe a teaching approach that reduces incorrect responses. In this presentation, the basic elements of designing an errorless learning environment, and considerations for using errors to improve your training plans, will be discussed.

Susan G. Friedman, PhD

Susan G. Friedman, PhD, is a professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology at Utah State University. She has helped pioneer the cross-species application of behavior analysis to animals, using the same humane philosophy and scientifically sound teaching technology that have been so effective with human learners.


Susan has co-authored chapters on behavior change in four veterinary texts, and her popular articles have been translated into 13 languages. She offers seminars on animal learning at conferences and zoos around the world, is a member of Karen Pryor Clicker Training’s ClickerExpo faculty, and teaches yearly hands-on animal training workshops with Steve Martin at Natural Encounters, Inc.

The Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the American Humane Association (AHA) Film and TV Unit, Susan is a member in good standing of ABAI, AZA, ABMA, IAABC and IAATE.

This year Susan was included on the Vet Tech College’s list of 15 Animal Professors to Know. Her acclaimed online course, Living and Learning with Animals for Behavior Professionals, has provided even wider dissemination of effective, humane, behavior-change practices to students in more than 30 countries.