STEP 4 Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High
Have you ever wondered how people develop superstitions? B. F. Skinner accounted for the development of superstitious behaviors in partial reinforcement schedule experiments he performed with pigeons. He found that if food pellets were delivered when a pigeon was performing some idiosyncratic behavior, the pigeon would tend to repeat the behavior to get more food. If food pellets were again delivered when the pigeon repeated the behavior, the pigeon would tend to repeat the behavior over and over, thus indicating the development of “superstitious behavior.” Although there was a correlation between the idiosyncratic behavior and the appearance of food, there was no causal relationship between the superstitious behavior and delivery of the food to the pigeon. But the pigeons acted as if there were. People who play their “lucky numbers” when they gamble or wear their “lucky jeans” to a test may have developed superstitions from the unintended reinforcement of unimportant behavior, too.