Friday, September 16, 2011

Pigeons Don't Wear Socks: Why We Think Rituals Can Influence Results

And a couple more sock shocks while you're still paying attention. Firstly, your behaviour is allegedly shared with pigeons. A discovery made in 1947, though only in principle as pigeons don't wear socks...In 1947, the famous behavioural psychologist BF Skinner stuck a few half-starved pigeons in a box and put food pellets down a chute at random intervals. The pigeons, said Skinner, began to think that whatever they did when the food arrived somehow caused the food to arrive, so they did it often...He called this "adventitious reinforcement". Some accidental association between an outcome and whatever you are doing at the time - wearing those socks on the day of a huge win - becomes established in your mind as a real relationship. It has to be said that some dispute Skinner's analysis, and since he also developed a pigeon-guided missile during World War II, you can tell he liked provocative ideas - and maybe not pigeons. more

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