Operant Chickens

As with chickens, humans can learn through reinforcement AKA operant conditioning.

In this video clip, we see a chicken learning that pecking a red circle yields a payload of food. Yet there is a problem with this algorithm. I don’t expect this study was meant to elucidate this point, but I’ll continue.

Except for one instance where the blue circle was pecked to yield nothing, the chicken learned that packing the red yielded a treat and so became fixed on seeking the red. What the chicken did not explore where the other colours—beige, green, and yellow. Perhaps these might have had a larger payout or a ‘better’ reward. Perhaps even a penalty or punishment, but I’ll ignore that eventuality.

The point is that through operant conditioning, the chicken is habituated. I feel that this is a metaphor for many such habituations in humans. People are indoctrinated (habituated) into all sorts of beliefs and behaviours, from the organisation of social and political systems to economic systems.

When I see people defending Democracy as Churchill did as “the worst form of government, but the best so far,” I can’t help but consider the parallels: Democracy is the red dot; capitalism is the red dot.

This not being a self-help blog, I’ll mention is passing the routines we get ourselves into that are analogous to this chicken—wandering through the world as if with blinders. The difference between a rut and a grave is the depth or dimensions. Are you in a rut on your way to the grave?

This is all I wanted to say. No chickens were harmed during the production of this blog entry.