Re: Estimating Projects

Subject: Re: Estimating Projects
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: Sharon Deitch <sharon -at- sintecmedia -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 05 Oct 2000 10:23:30 -0700

Sharon Deitch wrote:
> Great discussion! The above agrees with standard operant conditioning
> (behaviorism) principles. Being positive and reinforcing the "good" stuff
> works very well in all aspects of life. The reinforcement can come in many
> forms, including being polite and friendly (and always saying please and
> thank you), and giving a small reward in the form of food. The bigger the
> favor, the bigger the reward. Everyone likes to be paid for their work.
> (Of course, if indeed one is blatantly attempting to win someone over, it's
> usually quite obvious; one must be sincerely positive.)
> This is my new interest...using positive reinforcement in all aspects of my
> life (parenting, on the job, training my pets). It's amazing how well it
> works. I haven't had to yell at my kids in a long while, and last night, I
> trained my pet bird to climb her ladder. Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot the
> Dog" is an excellently written and highly recommended book on the subject.

I've got to admit that I hadn't seen the connection you made
between my ideas and Peter's. Thanks for the new perspective!

However, the fact that you referred to operant conditioning and
birds in the same message got me thinking. As a long time
bird-owner (we have four, two who were born in our living room),
I've followed the study of avian intelligence for years. The
best-known of these projects is Irene Pepperberg's work with an
African gray called Alex (currently being done, I believe, at the
University of Arizona).

Pepperberg's papers are fascinating, especially in the way that
she has designed her experiments to answer some of the criticisms
of the primate studies done in the Seventies. In particular, she
found that Alex and the other grays she work with don't respond
well to classical operant conditioning. Although they respond to
some extent to food and toys as rewards, they seem to learn best
in a social environment, interacting as they learn, or receiving
more social contact as a reward.

I suppose you could say that social interaction is a form of
operant conditioning. But, however you view it, it is a more
powerful stimulus than simple, immediate rewards.

In terms of office politics, this means that if you really want
to get on people's good sides, concentrate on social rewards:
treating people politely, respecting their expertise, making them
feel part of the team, and so on. In other words, you'll probably
strengthen relations more through behaviour than through a
mountain of chocolate and pizza.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com | Tel: 604.421.7189

"Soon you'll achieve the stability you strive for,
In the only way that it's granted:
In a place among the fossils of our time."
-Jefferson Airplane (after John Wyndham)


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