In high school, I had two VERY good teachers. One of them was the reason I went into teaching. The other wasn’t the reason I did anything, but he was very good nonetheless. The latter of these two was my Psychology teacher, and he is the first person to introduce me to schedules of reinforcement.
Basically, the persistence people pursue anything with correlates with the schedule on which they are rewarded for trying. Wikipedia can explain it to you better than I just did if you click here.
So… the variable interval schedule is what you and I (and WordPress) have going on with the comments on my posts. I like to call it the random schedule, because the idea is that a reward could come at any moment. You never know!
Variable schedules are the most effective type if you want people to try a million times really quickly and never give up. For example, if you occasionally (and randomly) give food to a rat when he pushes a lever, he’ll push the crap out of that thing and never stop, whereas he’ll push it exactly ten times if he gets food every ten pushes, and he’ll repeat that action every time he wants food. The same thing is true of old people at the casino. They’ll play those slot machines indefinitely because they might win big next time… they’ll neglect the kiddos, stop eating and lose sense of reality.
That’s why I can’t ever have internet access at home. If I did, I’d open my email 12 trillion times a day and stare at the little notifications bubble on the WordPress bar thing.
Maybe we should work out a better reinforcement schedule… would you be willing to sign a contract agreeing to comment at 3:00 pm every Tuesday and Thursday? That way, I’ll be on a regular reward schedule, and I will know that checking randomly won’t make your comments come any faster. I’ll know that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the only time I need to check, and not untile after 3:00, right?
I’m just brainstorming here. We can totally do 5:00 if that’s better for you