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Superstition

 

Techniques Conditioning > Superstition

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Superstition is belief in irrational things. In the context of conditioning, it can be seen where a subject gets one reward or punishment and then expects that they will get it again. It also happens where the subject assumes that any number of additional criteria form a part of a cue or stimulus for action.

Example

An actor counts to ten before a performance. They get a standing ovation. From then on, they always count to ten before going on stage.

A person always trains a dog in the garden. The dog assumes that obeying the command 'sit' leads to a reward only in the garden and consequently does not reliably sit on command elsewhere.

Discussion

Superstitious action can easily happen as a result of accidental reinforcement, where the subject assumes a causal relationship between a cue and stimulus or stimulus an action that in practice are not related other than by coincidence.

Once people believe something, they tend to develop reasons for these beliefs. This reasoning is then used as an argument against attempts to persuade them that their beliefs are wrong. In this way, it can be difficult to dissuade superstitious action.

See also

Positive Reinforcement

 

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