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Feeding the Machine

Feeding the Machine



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Published by KaptinScarlet
A short article on manipulative relationships
A short article on manipulative relationships

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Published by: KaptinScarlet on Aug 20, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Feeding the Machine:
 The trap of manipulative relationships
Chris Barnardo, www.dadcando.com, 18
August 2008
When I was a kid, summer or winter, no holiday by the seaside would havebeen complete without a trip to the seafront amusement arcade. Spin forward30 years and I’m sure you’d forgive me for thinking that for my children,reared in the shadow of the Playstation, such an outing would have no appeal,but that is not the case. I only have to mention that the nearby arcade has 2ppushers, and I get a chorus of voices begging me to take them there.. . .We arrive, it all looks very familiar. This might be the same place I visitedas a kid. In fact looking at the machines, these might even be the same onesthat I actually played on in the 70’s. All at once I'm like a child again, wormingmy way through the other punters, deep into the heart of the arcade, to find amachine I like the look of. I peer through the slanting shiny glass top. Themachine’s bar is mesmerising as it relentlessly pushes back and forth, mockingme as it repeatedly kisses the edge of the crazily stacked wedge of coins. Thetwo pences balance precariously over that magical ledge, hanging impossiblyfar out over the payout trough, just waiting for my very first coin to push themover their tipping point and into that deeply satisfying winning cascade. Withmy bag of 50 two pence pieces weighing down my pocket, I feel as rich as ahigh roller taking on Las Vegas. However, reality kicks in pretty sharply whenmy first ten coins make hardly an impression on the mass of tuppences, whichdespite my skilful efforts, still tantalisingly only promise a big win.. . .I stop for a second to reconsider my strategies. Is it best to drop the coininto the slot as the bar approaches, or just as it recedes? What will happen if Iput more than one coin in at once, or maybe I should blast them in, in quicksuccession? Is there any way of surreptitiously jogging the machine to dislodgethe coins without setting off an alarm or arousing the suspicions of the securitystaff? The coins appear so unstable that they look as though I could makethem tumble just by thinking hard enough about them overbalancing. I employa range of tactics (including positive thought). Occasionally I win, mostly I lose,whichever way it goes I play until I have run out of money. It’s great fun but itreminds me of something else that isn’t.. . .In the 1930s, an American psychologist called Burrhus Skinner conductedpioneering research to explain how animal behaviour is shaped by reward. In aseries of now classic experiments, he placed hungry pigeons in a box (latercalled a Skinner Box) and rewarded specific behaviours with seeds. Theexperiments are elegant in their simplicity but have clear and obvious lessonsfor all of us.. . .To see what I mean, first imagine yourself as a pigeon. You are hungry andyou find yourself placed in a box. It’s not uncomfortable and you look aroundto see if there is any food nearby. To start with there is none, but as you lookround to the left, a seed drops out of a hole in the wall and you gratefully peckit up. You look round some more, wondering if it was anything you did thatmade the seed come out of the hole. You try doing all the things you did justbefore the seed appeared, and after trying for at least a minute, another seedappears. Gratefully you peck it up. You’re still hungry and now quite keen towork out how you could get more seeds. Again you try all the things that youwere doing just before the seed appeared. You remember that you turned yourhead to the left twice just before the seed appeared both times. To try and

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