Very superstitious. Sorry, problems I have, I promised myself I wouldn't sing to you, but I break promises to myself all the time. yeah, this is going to be I think a, a shortish but kind of fun little lecture. It's really about a weird experiment that Skinner did somewhere along the way. and some of the implications he drew from it with respect to humans being superstitious. So just a fun way to think about all this in a, in a good, interesting, mind scratching kind of topic. Let's go. So week four lecture six. Conditioned Supersition. Al ight here we go, so yeah, humans have all sorts of odd supersitious behaviors. You know, bad luck numbers, black cats causing trouble. Friday the 13th, horse shoes being good luck, broken mirrors being bad luck, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. we even see weird things in, in like sporting events, where where there's competition going on between teams. Where for example a lot of pic, pitchers believe that you should never step on the white line. You have to jump over the white line. if you don't, bad things will happen. and so the question for today is where do these superstitious behaviors come from? well Skinner had a bit of an answer to that. He did a bit of a weird experiment on what he called noncontingent, excuse me, noncontingent conditioning. and in this case he used pigeons. So, you see a little pigeon sitting here and he did kind of a weird thing. So he's got Skinner boxes for pigeons that were, by and large, the same idea as what I told you about in the last lecture. but in this experiment, he decided to do the following. He put a, a pigeon in a Skinner Box. And every now and then, sort of semi randomly but you would have a certain interval in mind, so let's say approximately every minute or so a food pellet would drop. And the dropping of this food pellet was completely non-contingent on the pigeon's behavior. It was going to drop no matter what the pigeon did. And so skinner was just kind of curious. What would happen in this situation? And when, when he noticed after doing this to pigeon after pigeon after pigeon is that the pigeons developed what he thought of as somewhat superstitious like behavior. so for example, one pigeon would start to walk around in circles. and it wasn't doing this before he put it in, so he put it in for a while, and, you know, it would do a variety of behaviors, show all this variability. But, once he started dropping these food pellets at random intervals the pigeon started to develop this behavior and the behavior became more and more extreme. Why? Well, what Skinner suggested is that there's this other weird form of conditioning that can happen. Non contingent conditioning. Whereby, some reward occurs randomly. But whatever we were doing just before that occurred, we assumed that what we were doing had some causal relation, that it caused it to occur. And so his different pigeons ended up showing different ritualistic behaviors. Some spun some bent their heads up to the corner of the cage in a certain way, some did some sort of pigeony kind of thing like that. they would have all sorts of different things but they developed in the same way. So it was kind of like whatever the pigeon happened to be doing when the pellet dropped the first time it started to think oh, I caused that pellet to drop. How did I do that? What did I do? And so it, you know, now, a behaviorist wouldn't even care what the pigeon was thinking, I should point out. We'll come back to that point next lecture, but, you know, that's how we can think of it. And so that the pigeon tried to sort of recreate it's behaviors, it was going through it and while it was doing that, another pellet drops, so it assumes, oh, I must have sort of gotten it. I must have figured it out. and so eventually it engages in some behavior and of course the rewards keep coming. And so it, it ends up drawing that connection. Now of course sometimes it's engaging in the behavior and no reward is coming. But what Skinner suggested is that, as long as the rewards come regularly enough. Then this superstitious behavior will develop. The connection between when they do the behavior and get the reward will out weigh the connection between when they do the behavior and do not get the reward. So eventually, they will keep this assumption that their random behavior is causing the reward. And Skinner thought, that's exactly how all of our superstitions develop as well. Kind of interesting. so what do you mean our superstitions? Well here's a couple of examples just to get you thinking about this. One example that I've seen a lot is the pushing the button. So let's say you're waiting for an elevator. well I'd say first of all you just walk up to an elevator and you want to go up, so you press the Up button. Click. Now we all know the way elevators work. When you press a button that puts you in a queue so to speak. The elevator's doing its thing and when it's able or when it fits into its algorithm. It will come to see you and you only have to press the button once to make that happen. But what do we often see people do? Well they press the button, then they press it again. The elevator is not coming and they press it again. And they press it again. and then eventually, they press it and the elevator comes. And they thing aha, it was that extra press, that's what i had to do to make the elevator come. That's a good example of the Skinner like behavior, you keep pressing it and you ultimately have this notion that by pressing it extra times, you are increasing the likelihood of the elevator coming. And that notion is solidified by those times when you press it and the doors open, okay. Now here's a slightly different one. Skinner would use this as an example. He actually taught pigeons how to bowl by the way. Skinner did all sorts of weird things. but he, he thought of bowling as another interesting example of the more dynamic interplay between behavior and superstition. So he would say okay, you release a ball, and by all intents and purposes the moment you release a ball, when you're bowling you're affect on the ball is over. Okay, you've done everything you can do. But, very often bowlers will continue to stand there and contort their bodies, and shift, and almost like they feel like they're steering the ball, to the place where they want it to go. now, why do they do this? Well, in the very simple form. Skinner says, well it's like the elevator. In the sense that every now and then they twist and it goes exactly where they want. It doesn't go where they want because they twist, it was because of the spin on the ball, or whatever they did when they let go. But they get this feeling like, yeah, I twisted, it twisted, I did that. but even more extreme than that Skinner said, you know it's a little even more dynamic than that. If you throw it, and it's going towards the gutter, and you sense that early on, you don't even try the twist thing. At very early on you get the sense that, that's crappy and you just turn around. but every now and then when you, you can kind of feel that maybe you've put a bit of spin in the ball or you've done a little something and you don't think of this consciously but you can kind of preidentify trials when what you did when you had control could actually affect the motion of the ball. And then you do the twisting. And then the ball does its moving. and then you get that reward that says, yes, I was able to do that. and so Skinner thought, you know, can even with humans, it can even be more complicated than the very simple story he told with pigeons. But in the grand picture, that was his notion. That our superstitious behavior develops simply because you know, we happen to have put on certain socks today, and then, we went and had a really good day at work. and so maybe our boss was really proud of an idea we had, and now we have a big meeting coming up. We go looking for those socks, because we think they are now, our lucky socks. Simple explanation for a very, kind of complex weird human phenomenon. Alright, oops, I didn't mean to do that, I'm sorry. Let me get back here. so, a little more on that. you can actually see the experiments Skinner did with the pigeons if you'd like. there's videos on Youtube. This is kind of an interesting one. I don't know if you character Derren Brown. he likes to take psychological issues every now and then and try to replicate them in the real world. In this case he tries to produce a human version of Skinner's superstition experiment. So kind of fun. And, and you knew I had to give you the link to Stevie Wonder's very superstitious. You know, it's, it's just the it's been playing in my head the whole time I've been talking. also I gave you a link here to a very short example of, of how they published back in the day, in Skinner's day. So this is, this is literally the transcript of his paper where he describes his experiments on pigeons. that relate to superstition. So you can take a look at that. It, it's relatively easy to read and cool stuff. All righty? So that's what I got for you today. come on back next time and, and I think we're going to talk about language in gorillas.