PlazaJen: Passion Knit

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


When I took Psych 101 in college, I got paired up with a very ineffective lab partner. I at least learned this right off the bat, as we were given our rat (Charles) & he sized up my partner & leapt for freedom. Yep. She let him get loose, and it became my job to catch him. That was awesome. NOT SO MUCH. Anyway, I recaptured Charles, put him in his box, and for the next couple of weeks, we took care of our rat & did our experiments & whatnot. (Don’t worry. We didn’t harm the rats. I think eventually they did get harmed by upper-level students, but LA LA LA LA LA I don’t remember, thank you for that pitcher of beer that wiped out those brain cells.)

Most of all, during that experiment, I remember studying B.F. Skinner’s behavioral theories, and specifically the effects that positive & negative reinforcement have on behavior. For instance, if every time the rat hits the lever, he gets a mild shock, the rat won’t take very long to stop hitting the lever. Conversely, if every time he hits the lever, he gets a treat pellet, he will hit the lever with gusto. But the most INTERESTING thing of Skinner’s theory is that positive reward, given randomly, actually sustains the behavior longer & at a higher frequency, than constant reward. In other words, why the slot machines give you a little bit of a win here & there, to keep you pulling the lever until you’re out of money. The rat hits the lever much faster & more often if he doesn’t know for sure the pellet is coming, but that eventually, it will.

Our work internet connection is incredibly inconsistent. Maddeningly so. However, it still connects, sporadically, sometimes swiftly, sometimes only partially. As Kristin said this morning, it really should be taken out back and shot. But I caught myself this morning, maniacally hitting “refresh” and rocketing back and forth between three open windows, trying to load different things repeatedly, because every 30 seconds or so, something actually would fly through the pipes & make contact with the outside world. I have actually spent MORE time in the past two days trying to be on the internet than I ordinarily would, simply because it still connects, but always at random, and with mixed results.

And that is why I’m now calling it the “Skinnernet”.
posted by PlazaJen, 10:57 AM