Monday, July 28, 2008

sex, drugs, and b f skinner

The other night, I found myself in a bar, drinking a pint of Blue Moon, chatting with a drummer. He started explaining to me why he loves playing music as much as he does.

"There's just nothing like the high you get from playing good music, when you and the other band members are really on, and the crowd is really into it, you just get that great high, you know? But it's not always there, you don't always get that high, sometimes you're on and you get it, and sometimes you don't. You can always get a high from drugs or good sex, but the high from playing music, you don't know when you're gonna get it or not, so you keep on playing." Sipping beer, "Not that I do a lot of drugs or anything."

You have no idea how hard it was for me to not respond, "That's because you're being rewarded on a variable ratio schedule*, which is the most powerful schedule of behavioral reinforcement. Sex and drugs are reinforcing on a continuous schedule, meaning that you will always get that same high from those activities. But the fact that you sometimes get the high from playing music and sometimes you don't, and the unpredictability of receiving that high, causes you to continue to play music, each time hoping that you will receive that pleasurable high." Sipping beer, "This is a fascinating example of the operant paradigm at work." Throwing back a shot, "It's science, man." (Ok, I don't actually take shots, it just seemed like a good dramatic flourish for this story.)

People like me should not be allowed in bars.

*Note: This is probably why I'm addicted to the internet.


Cara said...

Hahah, oh Kelly, yous funnies. Has that guy found you on MySpace yet?

if walled in climb up said...

Thanks for the wonderful compliment. That means a lot. I agree, in the article the gunman did turn on the people most likely to help him. What a shame and senseless waste of life!

Funny post. Ironically, people who can pull extravagant terms and all but useless information (not that your psychology training is useless by any means) out of thin air are often the most entertaining when everyone's in an inebriated state. ; )

Ben said...

Oh goodness.

For the record, the high isn't just a performance thing - the scene in Once where they play/sing "Gold" captures it amazingly. Music is community-making, one way or another, but especially when a group of people is playing and singing together. It's a really lamentable thing that the present generation has replaced singalongs with iPods.

I'll leave the science to the professionals, I guess.

crackers and cheese said...

Cara - Yes. So perhaps I'll be going to one of their shows one of these days when they play in Bryan. Could be fun.

Britt - You're welcome :) Hmm, maybe I will pull out more psychology nerdiness when I'm drinking. I'm sure that kind of stuff is best enjoyed slightly intoxicated. Maybe we should start studying at bars instead of coffee shops, though state-dependent theory would require that we also drink while taking our exams, which might not be such a great idea.

Ben - Agreed, music is community making. I definitely enjoy music best when I share with others. I'm a big fan of singalongs, and they're an integral part of my time with extended family, along with political debates. Maybe that's another post.

Laura said...

haha I always wonder when I am in a bar (feeling uncomfortable as I often do) if the people who are in bars who ARE comfortable feel just as uncomfortable in libraries as I do in bars.

Cause I can let loose and be myself in a library.