So this one time when I pretended to be really smart, I took a psychology class, hoping it would launch me into a career as the next Dr. Laura. I promptly forgot that dream after the semester ended, but I do remember one thing, and that is Pavlov.
Ivan Pavlov was the guy who coined the term "conditioning" while studying dogs. He rang a bell right before he brought food to his salivating dogs and after a while, it got so he could simply ring the bell and the drool would pool because the dogs were "conditioned" to believe the bell meant dinner.
And then there was this other experiment with rats. A rat in a cage would push a green button and food would come through a tube, if he pushed a red button, he got a nasty electric shock. It didn't take long before the rat would avoid the red button and live on top of the green button where he got fat and lived a happy, pain-free life. This was called “positive reinforcement.” Good results led the rat to continue practicing a specific behavior.
As I stressed my way through last week, these thoughts spent way to much time circling in my brain like so much flotsam and jetsam, taking up valuable room and making me dizzy. But they did get me thinking. It seems an obvious truth that if a student stays on top of his or her work, a fat, happy, and relatively pain-free life will ensue. The very isolated experiences I have had with this have proved it to me. Why is it then that I continue to push the red button? I don't particularly enjoy pulling all-nighters with only Shakespeare and a Thesaurus for company! I am not a masochist!
And yet, the fact remains that the green button is getting lonely and my brains are being scrambled. But then again, how much use can they be anyway if I can't even measure up to a rat? :)