Reinforcement Schedule

The friend with whom I am staying in Howard Lake has a downstairs apartment. It reminds me of being in the lower level of a split level house. There are some nice, large windows in every room. Despite that, her cell phone reception is terrible, and she has no wifi. I rely on the unlimited data plan I have on my phone for it to function, but service is intermittent and I often have to go outside to get emails and phone calls.

Sometimes, in the morning as I sit in her living room, I have no difficulty sending and receiving texts and calls. Then, out of nowhere, I have to move really close to the windows for it to work. At other times, I have good reception between the sofa and the kitchen. Then, inexplicably, that area doesn’t work, either, but holding the phone high above my head helps, sometimes.

I realized the other day how silly I must look using my phone as I wave my arms and move around and outside the apartment, and it dawned on me that my phone has me on a variable-ratio reinforcement schedule, like BF Skinner demonstrated using pigeons in the 1960’s. Pigeons were taught to press a metal bar to get food pellets, and were then subjected to random reinforcement, in which food was delivered randomly, and there was no way for the birds to figure out what they had to do to get the food. They tried their hardest, though, developing odd behaviors they thought were associated with food delivery. Some developed odd head movements. Others turned around three times, because that is what they were doing when the food was delivered. Skinner used this research to explain the development of superstitious beliefs and behaviors, as well as gambling addiction.

I leave for home tomorrow, and there I know I can feel more in control than I do here. Besides, my shoulder is getting sore holding my phone above my head so much.

What motivates you? Do you have any superstitions or know anyone who is superstitious? Any technology horror stories?

38 thoughts on “Reinforcement Schedule”

  1. Grew up with knock-on-wood thing, not that I knocked on wood. Afraid that if I thought positive thoughts that would make negative things happen. Long gone. Must be something but cannot identify any.
    Used to be motivated by perfectionism but that’s long gone too. All those failures.
    Technology horror stories? Few important things lost, my fault, struggles with WiFi in large apartment building. I can see 23 networks. Lots of the younger generation boost their WiFi signals. Poor streaming sometimes.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I am superstitious I had sex sex sex come up on my sales receipt the other day and I mentioned it to the person that was there and they told me to check out the fact that sex sex sex is actually good fortune and lucky not the devil associational has come to be known with I said I’ve heard that before and I read about it a little bit but it still gets my attention and causes me too react differently
    Same thing number 13 I can’t think of other superstition that I pay attention to other than maybe stepping on cracks which I’m not very vehement about

    As far as what motivates me I’ve never had a problem with that life motivates me and I just have to figure out which direction I’m gonna be motivated in for the moment

    technological horror stories… I realized after 911 that if the bad guys want to get us what they need to do is to figure out how to cut off our ability to hook up with the Internet and we will all be totally screwed I was listening to something the other day about racing drones and it occurred to me that it shouldn’t be too much longer before they have drones in 18 year olds can be outfitted with that come complete with submachineguns and it should be our right to be able to carry drones with submachineguns shouldn’t
    I’m not much of an IT wizard and I need to get more so that way rather than being comfortable as I am I can be stumped by many of the step-by-step processes involved in working in technological stuff because I don’t have the patients to learn the procedures to make them click properly I probably should’ve warned Apple Wayback win but I’m a Windows guy and Windows is not as free from needing to know your IT as mac is
    I’m off to surgery here in another 15 minutes or so I’ll check back in with you later on today I meant to thank ben for the great Blog over the weekend
    foot surgery today
    different surgery at mayo thursday
    ben i’m trying to figure out how to plug eggs into the equation

    Liked by 5 people

        1. The thumbs and voice recognition under tim’s governance is puzzling and really fun! tim, best wishes for good medical outcomes.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. Motivated by challenges–especially mental–and a desire for excellence and to leave a modest legacy. Also motivated by fear/disgust/loathing/mistrust of the healthcare/health insurance monolith that so easily sucks money from unfortunate/unhealthy people. I learned long ago that that best way to stay healthy and live a long happy life was to stay out of the healthcare system as much as possible. Still, it costs my wife and me some $800/month for the various insurances and another $100+ for her prescriptions. I rarely take meds, just vitamins and a few supplements along with the occasional NSAID, decongestant, or antihistamine.

    I was SINO (Superstitious in Name Only) as a kid. We knocked on wood, didn’t walk under ladders, avoided cracks in the sidewalk, etc., just because that’s what you did growing up in the ’60s.

    I could write a book on technology horror stories, except I try to forget them as soon as possible. I just know that the time I’ve wasted messing with problem technology trying to fix problems has seriously eaten into the time and money I’ve saved over the decades using word processors, internet information, and other benefits of the Information Age.

    Chris in O-town

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    A psychology nerd like me just LOVES this post. Of course the Intermittent Reinforcement Schedule is what solidifies a behavior. I spend my professional life un-doing the results of Intermittent Reinforcement when really destructive behavior in individuals is accidentally reinforced, then firmly established.

    Sugar is my most desired reinforcer. Sugar plus caffeine is really reinforcing until the punishing crash that follows 2 hours later. This process I discovered at age 19 in an office that served coffee and donuts at the morning coffee break. Right before lunch I would start shaking and get mentally foggy—good old hypoglycemia. Several episodes of that ended my coffee and donut habit. Money and power are a little bit reinforcing to me, but not like sugar. I can always figure out what too much money and power will do, unlike sugar which I had to experience over and over.

    When I was in college, one summer when the psychology professor was on vacation, I cared for his Skinner lab pigeons. I have told this before. During the 2 weeks, I taught them my own little reinforcement schedule. Turn around, hop on one foot, get the food. Diabolical. Little did I know that this would become my professional base of knowledge.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Just yesterday I complained again about technology. All the while using it and loving it.
    Back about 1982, my mom and I both took a basic computer programming class. I remember them saying “the computer will do exactly what you told it to do. GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out. And when I program a lighting console nowadays, it’s the same thing. Me banging my head on the wall because the lights are doing something stupid? Somewhere, somehow, I told it to do that.

    Too many superstitions fail to follow through so I’ve given up on them. But you need to hold your breath when crossing a bridge, that’s just fact. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

      1. My programming class was so long ago that you had to write down your programming instructions and hand them in and then they would get turned into punch cards and then you would run the cards to see how your program went. Horrible.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. my motivational tool is motivational talks
    podcasts and blogs are so available today it’s easy to find
    ted talks and following individual people is an easy thing to do i could do it on and on and on
    i love access to all the talks and people that we have today

    we are information spoiled
    remember the hardcore research people who lived in those little rooms at the library?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. People’s approval often motivates me, esp. people I admire and/or want to get to know better, or the people frequently in my path.

    I have this fear that if I speak out loud something that I really want to happen, that will jinx it. Sigh.

    I have a dread of replacing computer, printer, etc., and just narrowly avoided having to find a new printer – my (really) old Canon displayed an error message “Contact Customer Service – 1702”. I was on the verge of buying something, and then tried it one more time – just kept hitting “OK” and by golly, it worked. We’ll see…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The answer to almost everything. Keep pressing buttons, as long as you don’t hit “Delete”, you’re almost always OK.
      I tell students all the time; don’t be afraid to press a button.
      i’ve seen people walking around in the dark because they were afraid to try al light switch. Honestly, just try things!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Deadlines! Nothing like deadlines to get my butt in gear.

    No superstitions that I can think of.

    The technology horror story that immediately springs to mind is from my days at KPMG. Our word processing department, which produced all of our audit and consulting reports, was staffed with six full time typists. It was a fast paced environment with a lot of unreasonable expectations in terms of turn-around time on reports; a very difficult environment to work in. One of our typists cracked under the pressure. At one point she sabotaged just about every job entrusted to her, claiming that the “system” ate her work. We had a team of IT professionals from Atlanta set up equipment (cameras and what not) that recorded every key stroke and movement of everyone in the department for over a week. Nothing went awry during that period, the equipment was not malfunctioning. The minute the monitoring equipment was removed, the problems resumed. By then I had figured out what was going on. Lost a lot of sleep over that issue, especially because race was a factor, but ended up having to terminate that typist. She was such a skilled typist, and understood better than anyone in the department exactly how the equipment (Lanier dedicated word processing equipment) worked. As it turned out, she had lots of personal problems going on at the time, including violence on a scale that was new to me. I shudder to think back on it.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Up until the fire in our building a few years ago, I had a post note in my cube that said @lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”

          Liked by 3 people

  9. Renee- fabulous photo today!

    Can I was younger I used to be more fussy a little more of a perfectionist. But about 25 years ago I worked with a young woman who used to always say “done is better than perfect.” Over the years that has become my mantra as well.

    Not very superstitious at all. For years and years I used to tap on the top of a pop can before opening it because I had read someplace that it helped keep it from foaming up. And then of course I saw online studies that have been done showing that tapping didn’t matter at all. But it took me a couple of years to break that habit. Was it superstition?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Deadlines motivate me on projects. A sense of pride and dedication to doing good work has motivated me in my career as a nurse. Healthy competition has motivated me but I’m not really a huge fighter so if I’m matched with someone who is aggressively competitive, I shrink like a violet.

    No real superstitions, I guess. I do the knock on wood thing but I can’t say that I really believe it’s helping anything. I also think I have unusually good luck on Fridays the 13th.

    I saved a lot of music and photos and other stuff onto a Western Digital external hard drive about ten years or so ago. I had no idea that it wasn’t a permanent file storage solution. I put my trust in it. If you’ve had files on one of those things for close to ten years, you should probably get them transferred to something else. Just a suggestion.

    Liked by 1 person

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