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Superstitioun in Pigeons: A model for human behaviour

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    Superstitioun in Pigeons: A model for human behaviour

    In 1947, B F Skinner proposed and executed experiments to induce behaviour in birds that seem mimick superstition in humans. An apparatus is set up to feed the birds at regularly and precisely timed intervals. The birds are unable to understand precisely why the food is appearing and its actual causal nature but relate what they were first doing when the food came and established a false causal relationship. He then goes on to compare similar acts of false causality (ie, superstition) in people.

    http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Skinner/Pigeon/
    Last edited by cafezinho; 10/26/2007 3:53pm, .

    #2
    I'll see your bird brained article and raise you a better one.
    (text is too long to post)
    Human beings do not in fact develop superstition in the face of the unknown. They develop superstition in the face of the uncontrollable, and it is an adaptive rather than maladaptive trait.

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      #3
      I recall this being mentioned on Dawkin's "Enemies of Reason". Interesting, as previously I would have thought that you needed to be "smart" to be superstitious. It seems related to in inherent shortcoming of thought to truly distinguish between cause and effect, without the aid of the scientific method.

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        #4
        Well there are certainly many differences between pigeons and human brains that one can bring up. But your point about the unctrollable is infact what was being studied in the pigeons. That is, not understanding what truly controls an event: the mind creates a causal relationship between an action and an outcome that in reality do not exist, so are infact trying to control what they are unable to.

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          #5
          Originally posted by cafezinho
          Well there are certainly many differences between pigeons and human brains that one can bring up. But your point about the unctrollable is infact what was being studied in the pigeons. That is, not understanding what truly controls an event: the mind creates a causal relationship between an action and an outcome that in reality do not exist, so are infact trying to control what they are unable to.
          Well, the difference (which you could just leave up to birds being stupid) is that people don't create superstitions for everything they don't understand. They are actually really picky about the things that they get superstitioous about, and only get superstitious about things where they have no control and where there is a high risk of failure. Like if the pigeon experiment only gave the food half the time.

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            #6
            The example that Michael Shermer uses is baseball. Outfielding is easy, most of the time the ball is caught on a pop fly. There's no superstitions associated with it. With batting there's a much lower chance of success. Here, baseball has tons of superstitions. Superstitions are also associated with war, sailors, and other people whose situations rely on chance more.

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              #7
              Last time I looked into it no one had been able to replicate skinner's results (this is a consistent theme with his work). Skinner has had an influence on psychology that isn't consistent with the quality, rigor etc. of his work nor his interpretations which were often quite inconsistent with what his results actually suggest.

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                #8
                Think about this, if someone out there is a decent fighter and wins a fight, and happened to have learnt a new kata recently...

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                  #9
                  Originally posted by Virus
                  Think about this, if someone out there is a decent fighter and wins a fight, and happened to have learnt a new kata recently...

                  Then clearly it was the kata. All previous successes are irrelevant, as past performance has no impact on future performance, same as with dice and fruit loops. The relationship in this case is not causal as some would would suggest, but casual, like Fridays at the office.

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                    #10
                    Originally posted by UpaLumpa
                    Last time I looked into it no one had been able to replicate skinner's results (this is a consistent theme with his work). Skinner has had an influence on psychology that isn't consistent with the quality, rigor etc. of his work nor his interpretations which were often quite inconsistent with what his results actually suggest.
                    You can add Jung and Freud into that group. Not too sure about Jung, but he had some pretty stupid ideas himself.

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                      #11
                      Originally posted by Poop Loops
                      You can add Jung and Freud into that group. Not too sure about Jung, but he had some pretty stupid ideas himself.
                      Like Freud's "all your desires are related to sex" claim? LOL

                      Both were still great psychologists and important in their time. The thing is that back then, there were a lot of odd scientific claims.
                      GUIZ THIS IS LIEK MY SIGNACHOOR LOLOL

                      :icon_roll

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                        #12
                        Originally posted by krazy kaju
                        Both were still great psychologists and important in their time. The thing is that back then, there were a lot of odd scientific claims.
                        No, they weren't great. Freud is the WORST scientist in history, followed by Aristotle.

                        He FABRICATED every shred of "evidence" he ever had. He was a fucking liar. At least Aristotle had no fucking clue what he was doing. This guy knew fully well it was wrong and kept fabricating evidence to support his claims.

                        I don't know much about Jung besides him being in a cave and having a "flashback" to his ancestors in caves swinging clubs = memory is passed on through genes. What a fucking stupid idea.

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