In a few weeks, I’ll begin teaching psychology at a local university for the summer. As I was prepping for my new role, something dawned on me. I’ve become…a lab rat.
Here, in the mad scientist laboratory of Medium, I’ve learned and adjusted my behavior according to something psychologists term intermittent reinforcement, a concept that can be explained using this example:
Say you’re a hungry lab rat trapped in a cage. You find a mysterious lever and decide to press it with your little rat paw. As a result, you’re rewarded with a delicious food pellet. So you push the lever again. Nothing. Push. Nothing.
Push push push push push push!
Tasty food pellet!
Hope springs eternal.
That hope, that eternal hope that springs anew and causes the rat to keep pushing the little lever, is the result of intermittent reinforcement — reward on a random schedule.
The same thing happens here on Medium. You publish a story. You wait. The story is curated Oh, glory! You are the finest writer the world has ever known. So you post another story. And wait. And wait and wait and wait. And then the verdict comes in: “Not distributed in topics”.
You’re not going to take this lying down! You’ve been curated before and by the gods, it will happen again! So you publish another story. And another. Still — “Not distributed in topics”.
Then that random piece you wrote about your Uncle Herb’s bike ride across Brazil to raise money for rabies awareness is curated. Huzzah! You’re rewarded again!
And so it goes. You might be a lab rat. I definitely am. And I cannot stop posting on Medium.