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?