21/09/2011 by Marnelli
Have you ever gone to the gym and promised yourself that from that day on you will exercise regularly? Have you ever gone out of the gym almost crawling out afterwards thinking how you’ll be able to keep it up? This was me yesterday and it wasn’t the first time. I need a some conditioning. Is there a behaviourist in the room?
Let’s start with Classical Conditioning. It’s when you condition a certain event or object to evoke a response that isn’t usually triggered by that event/object, this is done by pairing it with an event/object that would normally evoke the desired response. Enter Pavlov’s dog. Good ol’ doggie salivates normally when Dr. Pavlov presents it with food but before the food is presented a bell is rang. After so many times of this event happening the bell was enough to make doggie drool.
Now, if you try to ring a bell to make me exercise I might just hit you with it. But one can relate such conditioning to getting pumped up in the gym. If I have a regular routine every time I go to the gym the preceding events may eventually be paired with the rush of exercise. Maybe the sight of my gym bag in my locker would be enough to get me pumped up to go to the gym! (oh how I wish, but how do I drag myself to the gym often enough for such association to develop?)
Time for Operant Conditioning. This one’s about rewards and punishments. Its pioneer, Skinner trained animals such as pigeons to press a button to obtain food as a reward (later he pretty much could make them do anything). Food? A reward for going to the gym? Well, I’m okay with that but kinda defeats the weight loss goal. Best thing about us humans is there’s a wide array of possible rewards. Maybe shopping after a certain amount of days of exercise? It’s quite an external reward and will end up with me being broke but internal rewards such as the feeling of accomplishment will later be enough (hopefully before I’m broke). Plus, there is a thing such as runner’s high one can get from exercise (always a nice reinforcer of a behaviour, aye? yeah man).
Oh well, so there you go. It’s a purely behavioural take and with our complexity it may not be enough for you to hit the gym, but it kinda helps. If not with exercise there’s always a behaviour that you can find that you can condition. Anyways if all else fails grab a dog and watch it salivate.