Thursday, March 21, 2013

CDLXXXIV - Skinner's Pigeon


There are people out there who constantly check their mobile phone
for messages from that someone special.  Not you?  Nah, me neither.

Be that as it may...

B.F. Skinner, patron saint of poker machine addiction,
studied it all many years ago, using pigeons.

The form is a villanelle; it’s repetitive structure ideal for the topic.


Skinner’s Pigeon

We are conditioned to persist,
For reasons Skinner could explain,
To check for text we may have missed.

Like pigeons fed a random grist
To push a lever for some grain,
We are conditioned to persist,

Freewill is there, some will insist,
But we’re driven by an inner vein 
To check for text we may have missed.


It doesn’t matter how we twist,
The facts are clear and still remain:
We are conditioned to persist,

Always chasing what may not exist,
The need is there within our brain
To check for text we may have missed.

Enamoured, like a lover kissed,
Checking the screen again and again:
We are conditioned to persist,
To check for text we may have missed.

---
© J Cosmo Newbery 2013
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33 comments:

  1. I have made the connection between the decrease in cigarette smoking and the increase in mobile phone use a couple of times now, they definitely replace that addictive need to be doing something with your hands and it goes right through to the response when seeing someone using one being to get out your own!
    I think we are all addicted to our phones, and being plugged in constantly. And we definitely expect instant replies!
    Sure everyone will relate to this one.
    Lovely form.

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    1. It's an interesting thought about the cigarette substitute. I suppose a yo-yo doesn't cut it.

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  2. Unfortunately - this is so true!

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  3. I'm persistent in some things...but not with a mobile. I think I'm the last person standing (and sitting) who doesn't own a mobile!

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  4. No Lee, there are a few of us Luddites left in the world :)
    I wouldn't have one if the calls were free!

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    1. I'm glad to learn that I'm not the Last of the Mohicans, after all, Sue. Let's stand and remain strong!! ;)

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  5. I have always associated Skinner with rats..A Miss Pinwell who was our pysch lecturer never mentioned pigeons although she did introduce us to counter tenors. . This poem is not about mobiles,it's about obsession I think.Like the person who checks the door five times to see that it is locked...
    obsessive compulsive disorder.

    Rallentanda

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    1. Yes, you are right, it is very much about obsession.

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    2. Quite get the obsession perspective, but the mobile is the means to feed the obsession.

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  6. I do like the parallels drawn between OCD and the constant checking of mobile phones. Not too far off the mark either I don't think.

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  7. I just saw that it was recently the anniversary of Skinners birthday -- very appropriate.

    Very fun mocking of one of our many silly habits -- indeed, we are more similar to pigeons than we'd like to imagine. Neurotransmitters control us all.

    Great form!

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  8. the form with its repetitive nature definitely fits the constant need to check over and over and over and....

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  9. It borders on the obsessive indeed...brilliant connection J.

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  10. I am glad I am not conditioned to check my text or phone every time ~ A nice twist on the Skinner's theory ~ Appreciate the form ~

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  11. It made me nervous to read this poem. LOL. I kept thinking there was something I needed to check...something I missed. The repetition of the villanelle form was perfect.

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  12. Oh dear, do I read myself between any of these lines? That need to belong is sometimes our undoing, right??

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  13. Your poem reminds me how so much of our behavior isn't necessarily conscious... not in motivation or action. Why do we persist? Because of how our brains are hardwired, a skill that has allowed us to survive. The diligent ones, checking throughout the night for predators and enemies, were able to make it through the night, pass on their genes. Your writing here is both exciting and interesting... you make it look so easy.

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  14. We just can't stop ourselves

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  15. This works really well as a villanelle. Your message is why I dont have even a cell phone. I still miss the days when we all used to write LETTERS to each other, apparently a lost art.

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  16. Very well done. You captured it. It is a shame so much time is spent on this, but it is the way today.

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  17. So well done! The form fits the subject matter perfectly--

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  19. Sorry about that J Cosmo... I forget where I am at times..

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  20. Thanks J Cosmo. No mention of Pavlov's puppies which suits me. smile...

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  21. Staying connected can be a life and death savior on rare occasions. That rare occasion may just happen once but a long regret if missed. Great thoughts Cosmo!

    Hank

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  22. Funny and clever! And just a bit scary. :)

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  23. Oh, Skinner... he figured us out, didn't he? But some of us rebel. We rebel.

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  24. I can relate to it. Impatience and addiction - all mixed up. And what a brilliant wordplay. Loved it.

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  25. Cos, I do own a 'smart phone,' but I silence it in the company of friends, etc. Why people succumb to "Cell Phone As Almighty Master," I will never understand. I saw someone at a loved one's bedside in HOSPICE... the dying person was trying to speak, and the visitor was glancing at their cell. SWEAR IT.

    We do have free will, as you so rightfully submit - and yet so many folks "submit" to the beguiling, ever-changing screen. God help us all. You NAILED this form and this poem and everything else. Good on you! Amy

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