When it comes to lucky charms, are humans as stupid as pigeons? Before you call PETA on me, let me explain why I ask that. Early on, psychologists performed experiments on pigeons by placing them in a box that had a food dispenser in it. The dispenser would release food when the pigeons pecked on a button. As such, the pigeons learned to peck the button when they wanted food.
Then the psychologists fixed the button to only work occasionally. As a result, the pigeons pecked the button more frequently in hopes of getting food. But what if they took out the button and allowed the food to dispense randomly?
Some of the pigeons began to think that whatever action they were taking when food was dispensed is what caused it to dispense. So if they were bobbing their head, spinning around, or pecking along the floor, they would keep repeating that action.
When the food did dispense, that reinforced their behavior, thus convincing them to repeat their action again and again. Some of the pigeons became obsessed by it, believing that if they repeated that action enough, food would appear.
So my question again is:Are humans as stupid as pigeons? I would like to think that we’re smarter, but because so many of us try to guess (and beat) the odds, it can make you wonder.
Humans are horrible at estimating the odds – it’s a proven fact. But, we are wired to seek cause and effect in patterns. As such, when two things happen at the same time, we assume they are connected, and ignore when they are not.
Do you carry a lucky charm of some sort? Maybe a four leaf clover or a rabbit’s foot? Then, when you have good fortune or a really good day, you feel like that charm is what made that possible?
What about those days when things go wrong though? Do you conclude and excuse it that it your lucky charm doesn’t work every day, all the time? And you simply have to wait for the good luck to return?
Everyone has a good day, a lucky day. Everyone has bad days, unlucky days. That’s the reality of it all. Are there charms that bring us good luck or the lack of a charm cause us bad luck? There are experts that if this is really possible, then perhaps humans are just like the pigeons.
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