Here I was, happily going through life, under the impression that I was a free-thinker making my own choices. This week I learned I am but a pawn of the external stimuli coming at me from all angles, resulting in my desired behavior by various companies.

Behaviorism is the change in the form or frequency of a behavior in response to an external stimulus. More people seem to remember Pavlov’s dog experiments than anything else. I remembered the rats pushing levers in B.F. Skinner’s box. Well, to be honest, I remembered the rats pushed levers and received food, so they kept pushing the levers. I didn’t remember that it was Skinner’s box.

Now that I have done my readings and video viewings for this week, I realize it is all around me (as was pointed out in various examples). I thought I enjoyed getting my specialty coffees (and getting the 7th drink free) because I was a good bargain hunter. After all, I’m going to buy the coffee anyway. Look at me saving a little money by using this program. No! The store is using behaviorism on me. They are using operant conditioning on me; guiding my behavior towards their desired behavior by using reinforcement. Instead of continuous reinforcement (a free drink in a BOGO offer which would cost them more money) they are using partial or intermittent reinforcement. I come to their store and pay for 6 coffees with the mark up from the actual cost covering much more than just the cost of the free 7th coffee that keeps me returning to their establishment.  Also pointed out to me in the YouTube Crash Course video on Psychology #11 was the fact that I also respond to negative reinforcement. Although it sounds like punishment, negative reinforcement isn’t that but actual something good that results in the removal of an external stimulus. In the example revealed to me in this video, I remember to buckle up my seatbelt so I don’t have to hear the obnoxious sound or see the light on my dashboard. In order to stop those things, I buckle up or (more often than not) remind the passenger in my car that they haven’t buckled up. Either way, I am motivated to get rid of the sound and light.

I’m no stranger to behaviorism. I was a dog trainer for the ASPCA and we used clicker training for the dogs. You start out giving the dog a treat when it does something good and at the same time clicking your clicker. Then you make the dog treats less and less frequent but maintain the use of the clicker so the dog knows that you are happy with their actions. Here I thought I was smart, but I am responding to the “clickers” all around me in my own life!

A single mom, cancer survivor, proud of both sides of her Scandinavian/Puerto Rican heritage, whose sense of humor, friends, and faith have helped her navigate life. None of it would mean anything without my daughter and our furry family members.

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