We are all dogs

Classical conditioning is the learning procedure in which a biologically potent stimulus (e.g. food) is paired with a previously neutral stimulus (e.g. a bell). It was first studied in detail by Ivan Pavlov through his experiments with dogs.

The other night my daughter, Flossie, had a really bad tummy ache and vomiting. We’d just come back from Fiji and I’d had the same thing, so we knew the cause.

In her pain she was begging us to, “Take me to the doctor with my iPad.”

A strange request, until you consider that a few months ago Flossie had had a bad tummy ache which we’d taken her to the hospital for, which had resolved spontaneously when she saw the doctor and was playing on her iPad.

Flossie associated seeing the doctor and playing on her iPad with her pain resolving.

And it got me thinking, how often do we have associations between two completely unrelated things, and in our heads we make them causal?

“I’m successful because I do X.”

“I’m unsuccessful because I do Y.”

While this might be true, it is also entirely possible the you might be successful despite doing X, of unsuccessful despite doing Y.

This is a problem when we do more or less of a behaviour, that might not be relevant, because we think it will impact the outcome.

What associations have you made that cease you to habitually do things now that might now be serving you?

What could do with a change?