Skinner’s Superstition Effect


When an animal is given a┬áreinforcer at randomized time intervals and the reinforcer isn’t associated with any action within the animal’s control, the animal will sometimes begin to associate a particular behavior with the reinforcer despite the behavior being entirely unrelated to the delivery of the reinforcer.

This was first discover by B.F. Skinner when the pigeons he’d been feeding at randomized time intervals begin to develop superstitious behaviors had happened to associate with the delivery of food. The pigeons superstitions persisted despite their behavior having no actual impact on the automatic food delivery mechanism.


‘Superstition in the pigeon’ (Wikipedia)

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