In psychology, there was testing many years ago trying to decide on the applicability and limits of behavioral training. This would be stimulus/response. The particular test which comes to mind is the one where a bird was given a pellet of food at a timed interval regardless of the bird’s behavior. The bird was observed to adopt the behavior of turning in circles prior to eating. The interpretation is that the bird adopted the behavior immediately prior to receiving food as that behavior which produced or allowed the food to be given. Remember that in this case the administration of food was no relative to the behavior of the bird, only the time on the clock.
People consider themselves a high functioning being than a bird, but I started wondering about people functioning in the same fashion. I remember just yesterday noting to another nurse how superstitious nurses are. Example: utter the word “quiet” and the rest of the day will go to…. Where did that thought originate? Could it be that some nurse was enjoying their day, uttered that forbidden word and 30 minutes later their shift got thrown into the crapper? I can see a clear parallel here. There was a school I visited which was designed for bipolar children. One teacher there informed me that there were doctors who understood the effect of the moon and would adjust the kid’s medications according to the moon’s cycle. One could argue superstition, another could say that they were observing the behavior of the children relative to the period of the moon and noted a similarity.
So let’s back up a bit and observe what this kind of inquiry is. The scientific method has been employed to elucidate many useful things. This is the setting up of an experiment with known quantities and observing the outcome if a specific change is applied to those known quantities. The experiment must be repeatable to be considered valid. In other words, others must be able to reproduce the results. To start at the simplest, babies in their highchairs learn that when something is held over the end of their tray and released, it goes to the floor. This experimentation may go on until most of the supper is in a pile, or a parent applies force outside of the experimental lab.
Once one is outside of the most simple experimentations, the results and mechanisms become much more diffuse and subject to other forces. Let’s go to the other end of the scale and think medication. The development of a medication may take the talents of a doctor, biochemist, and organic chemist as well as the businessman to provide the resources of production. The doctor observes a particular ailment and proposes a means to alter the problem. The biochemist considers the application of molecule to the particular site and decides upon a molecule that works on the problem. The organic chemist takes the proposed molecule and plans how to produce the same. Each step of this takes observation, planning, calculation, and testing. Once a medication is produced, an animal is chosen on which to test it. This is the first stage testing where the question must be asked, “does this do what we want?” The next question, “what other effects does this have?” Once these are answered, the medication goes to its first human trial. These are volunteers who take the medication according to their own ailments and report how it worked as well as the side effects experienced. These are the side effects noted in the pharmacy insert.
How is this different than the bird turning circles? Well, we humans reproduce the results, therefore are more “scientific” than our bird counterparts. I have read may medication inserts and have repeatedly noted the disclaimer that the actual mechanism of the medication hasn’t been fully elucidated. It is thought to do such and such in this particular area of anatomy. In other words, the scientists have made observations and are providing the medication based upon those observations. They have turned a circle and noted the food pellet there and concluded that action may have been involved because of x and x. The patient is advised to use medication only under the direction of a physician because liability may ensue should the person take medication straight from the manufacturer and not have a good outcome. How could one not have a good outcome when this substance has been tested? This medication was tested in animals, and other people with their own metabolisms, but even though people are similar enough to make generalizations, there are specific differences requiring different treatments. Turning circles may work with one patient, but poking the lever may be required for another.
Every action a person takes can be reduced to testing and results of previous experience. We walk into a restaurant with money handy, because that exchange is required for obtaining food. This is known by observation of others and experience the person has on their own. Who has tried to eat at a restaurant without exchanging money? There are stories occasionally involving descriptions of the person’s character and the legal results of such action. Again, stimulus and response. I have previous written on truth, but a similar parallel could be written here. We call that letter “a” because the teacher in kindergarten said that particular shape was called that name. No other shape was assigned the name “a”. There was a stimulus and a response. In this case, another individual directed the responses and provided stimuli according to the result to produce similar responses across the classroom. That is why you can read my thoughts here – similar responses were rewarded and alternative responses were discouraged.
Thinking on that level takes me to the understanding that this could be spokes of a wheel continuing down a road of consciousness with contact at any point having association with the concept. In other words, it could go on without end, so I will stop now.