Rewarding Dependent Behavior and America’s Decline


Rewarding Dependent Behavior and America’s Decline

A search of the internet will find many “Do Not Feed The Animals!” signs.

Some signs will even go beyond this simple command and provide the reasons why it is bad to feed the animals: “It will make them dependent”; “because they get dependent on handouts and stop fending for themselves”; and “Bears, alligators, and other animals can get aggressive even after one food reward”.

It should come as no surprise that animals will get dependent upon the hand that feeds them. So why should it be any different for human humans?  

In the case above, not only is dependent behavior being directly rewarded, but something more subtle is also operational.  Psychology’s Matching law predicts that when two or more schedules of rewards are available, but cannot be responded to at the same time, the rate of responding on each schedule tends to nearly match the rate of rewards available on each schedule.

The Matching Law has been used to explain foraging patterns of animals in the wild. I will grant you that it is an imperfect extrapolation from these studies of animals in the wild to human animals responding to welfare opportunities rather than market labor opportunities. But something very similar ordinarily  happens within populations of sociocultures.

Ease, effort, convenience, and certainty-of -reward for work done all play into the human behavior patterns. For example, I live in a wooded area and a very large oak tree is threatening to fall on the corner of my home. The “tree surgeon” came to estimate the cost or removing this tree shortly after a major storm knocked down many trees in my area.

After a short inspection he stated that he would prefer not to take the tree down because it would be very difficult to get to in our back yard and it was a very large and challenging tree to manage. He kindly and apologetically said: “its like going into the farm yard to pick a chicken for dinner and they all have two legs except one”. He asked, with a smile, “which one ya gonna pic?!” The law of least effort was wonderfully illustrated in this simple statement and so were the mechanisms of natural selection and the “survival of the fittest”!

The tree is still standing, leaving my gene pool in the cross hairs of the mechanisms of natural selection! I must now resist the seductive attraction of the law of least effort.

We need to discuss the interesting warning about aggression that a minority of such signs provide.

Psychological research has demonstrated a strong tendency of animals to lash-out and become aggressive when they experience frustration and/or pain. This will not happen with every human animal.  But the probability of elicited aggression is greatly increased within a population under these conditions.

Also,  psychological research has demonstrated that animals accustomed to being very frequently rewarded for some behavior (technically called “continuous reinforcement”, CRF, or a “thick schedule”) are very likely to become aggressive when the rewards are stopped suddenly. This is called extinction-produced aggression or, when frustration and anger result without aggression, it is called extinction-produced emotional behavior.

Perhaps you will recognize the behavioral/cultural corollaries in the recent population rioting in Great Britain, France and Greece.

These societies have incrementally increased welfare “entitlements” (rewards for doing very little) to more and more citizens until the tax payers can no longer afford them. When cuts to these entitlements must finally be made, due to a growing dependent population, we normally see characteristic extinction-produced emotional and aggressive behaviors within that population in the form or rioting.

A volcano of riotous social chaos is building in America and it may already too late to stop our bad social/political welfare and entitlement policies that feed it.

Wake-up America and Vote the Progressive-Socialists in both parties out-of-office!

VTM, 2/7/14

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