Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Joy of Closure

The holidays bring plenty of reinforcers, and one is simply completing the many preparations.  All my cards are sent, and I purchased my last gift yesterday.  Oh the joy!  Toss that completed Christmas list with a light heart.

More generally, completing any sort of project, big or small, can be reinforcing--whether it's one you've been dreading or anticipating.  I was raised on the rule that when you start something, you see it through, lacking good reasons to the contrary.  Homework, for example.  For me, that approach generalized to playing piano pieces all the way through, finishing long books, completing gardening projects, almost anything.  An interesting but unfortunate side effect makes completion failures into aversives, even when they really shouldn't be. Why not stop halfway through a book or piece that's become unreinforcing?  I have no trouble now quitting midway, but it took a while to work through these opposing consequences.  (And I still end up skimming the rest of the problem book!)  Maybe it's a matter of taking the useful skill of self-control--going for that larger-later reward over the smaller-sooner--a bit too far.

It's also curious how this effect appears to contribute to my daily sense of accomplishment or lack of accomplishment despite similar effort.  Because long projects don't provide the reinforcer of closure until they're done, I have to remind myself that I am making progress.  That does help, and so does the chance to complete shorter tasks along the way.  Can anyone else relate? 

Here's a wish that we can all relate to:  Happy holidays, everyone! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Thunder Indoors

It used to be that rummaging in your local produce section was downright dangerous:  Without warning, the sprinkler system would turn on, freshening up the broccoli but dousing your hands in the process.  Several of my local grocery stores play a very clever soundtrack as a warning so you can avoid this negative consequence of selecting your veggies:  They run a short tape of a thunderstorm first!  I applaud the cleverness of whoever thought this one up--and I've duly learned to withdraw when I hear this signal.

This is a really short post, but I've had a cold for over two weeks now <sigh>.  Hope all of you are doing a better job at staying healthy!