Motivation and Operant Conditioning and Top-Down Approach

Well, I noticed something interesting about my motivation. On this blog and also on other social networking sites, i notice that at first I wont do very much in the way of promotion or organization. I’ll make a shitty profile and leave shitty msgs. However once in while I’ll decide to try upping my game or something else and because on these websites you get instant reward of social contact if you do the right thing , it seems to condition me very fast to spend more and more time working to improve my results. Fascinating!

This conditioning is not only in the way of doing more of what work though. I also notice that if the things that work, work poorly, I still get tired of that method and try a different method, or even a different website, or goal all together.

This leads me to two important observations. One is the importance of just starting whatever goal it is, no matter how shitty a job is done, so I get real world feedback.

The second is that I take a top-down approach to my goals. Figure out what I want, and then look for the easiest path(usually high level) to that goal. If that yields poor results then I may look just a bit deeper into the system I’m working with, understand just a bit more, and then try again.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with this approach to goals and it seems like a natural and more enjoyable way of working. However it seems academia for the most part think everything is best learned from the bottom up. I actually enjoy learning about atoms and electronegativety, how ever I am learning about it now for a course on human physiology. What I mean is, the instructor told us first thing that we are learning about chemistry so that we can understand cells and organs and organs systems so we can understand how the body works. As well, as he went along he told us about ways this knowledge is being used to increase the number of antioxidant enzymes in rats and how that information may some day be used to increase human life span. This higher order information on what chemistry is used for helps motivate me to want to learn chemistry, even if not to necessarily come up with the fountain of youth myself, just knowing how powerful the knowledge is, makes it interesting, where as otherwise I might not see a point in learning it.

Also for me the difference in motivation when learning about math related to computers and math related to the human body, is great. Even though it may be the exact same math. I realize I am just more interested in the body than in computers. Apparently this has little to do with personality type? This information is important because while both fields and the math for both fields are important, learning math for a reason I can’t relate to will make in not meaningful and therefore a painful and ineffective method of learning.

It seems that while people urge the youth to decide what they want to do with their lives, that experimentation may be an unavoidable necessity for many students unless/until more effective methods of understanding what jobs we would enjoy are developed. Even though I hope this article does help others understand what they may want to do, I’m not saying experimentation should be avoided, I actually found it extremely enriching and I feel experimentation will 1) always have a place at some point in life and 2) for those who want to make discoveries, it should be sought out.


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