Listener Liz Randall with Dogs Abound in CA wrote in with a question about the differences between a prompt and a cue, both in theory and in practical terms. Thanks, Liz!
So, is there a difference? Where do you draw the line? Are some “good” and some “bad”?
In some ways, there is no difference at all. All of these things really fall under that antecedent umbrella. They are part of the conditions under which behavior occurs, and so influence the likelihood of that behavior occurring. Any conditions we train under WILL become part of the cue for that behavior. That is how antecedents work and why generalization is a thing.
The words are used interchangeably in our everyday language, but let’s see if we can unpack them a bit.
It may help to think that all prompts function as cues but not all cues are prompts. We can even take that a step further because we really have something of a hierarchy here… a spectrum or gradient, where luring is a subset prompting, prompting is a subset of cues.
When speaking in terms of operant conditioning, particularly in practical application, we make distinction between the discriminative stimulus/cue and a prompt. Because it changes how we approach the training. The differences are mainly in the application… how we use them, and that changes the outcome we get.