Getting away from the hamster wheel

We are all vulnerable to cognitive distortions, one of which is a combination of magical thinking and misattribution of cause and effect. B.F. Skinner described it in a study he called “Superstition in the Pigeon.” (I do not endorse animal cruelty.) Skinner put very, very hungry pigeons in cages and swung a food dish into the cages at random intervals. When the pigeons got hungry again, 75% of the birds would repeat whatever they were doing when the food arrived. They attributed cause and effect to whatever action—such as hopping on one foot or flapping their wings—“made” the food appear the last time. People do that, too. Something good happens, and you attribute it to the prayer you uttered, the candle you lit, or the lucky shirt you wore. To get out of the rut, stop inferring cause and effect like Skinner’s superstitious pigeon. It will just keep you on the hamster wheel even longer.

About seagullsea

a seagull flying over the great ocean of life observing.
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