Saturday, January 2, 2010
Operant Conditioning and 2009
The past year was not one of my best. In fact on December 28th I was not all that sure I even wanted to see the final days of it. I felt like a victim of B.F. Skinner and Operant Conditioning. Skinner is famous for the Skinner box which tested learning levels with rats through positive and negative reinforcement. One of his most horrid modifications of this was two boxes which were wired to give an electric shock. A cat was placed in one and shocked. It jumped to the other. Where it again got shocked. After a few repetitions of this experiment the cat would just sit in the box and shiver as it got shocked.
As a young college student and lover of cats my exposure to this shocking experiment sent me running from my Psych 101 class and back to the registrar to switch to Anthropology 101 instead. B.F. Skinner even developed a box for his infant daughter. And to this day I wonder where he buried all the bodies.
What I learned personally from this experience is animals are trainable but that old saw about God never giving you more than you can handle is bull shit. If it was true people would not be shivering in straight jackets in lock down rooms in mental institutions. I avoided the straight jacket but I spent large parts of several days just sitting in my easy chair under heaps of afghans and shivering and crying. The purr kids, Skinner was so fond of torturing, and the dogs loved and supported me and demanded I get out of the chair from time to time to feed them and walk them. And help from my two legged and ether friends.
I still feel very fragile and am approaching 2010 tentatively. I am looking in every single box before I decide to trust it. That does make it hard to be positive but I am working on a positive game plan for the year ahead. Dare I hope there are no shocks?