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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Contrived Recurrence

Contrived recurrence occurs when we do things in order to receive associated rewards.  The mouse learns that by tapping on a bar he gets food.  Contrived recurrence is a form of conditioning but is peculiarly human in that the result is not learned but foreseen.  Without ever having “tapped on the bar” we foresee that reward will be the result.  An example would be an employee who retires contemplating double rewards by returning to work after retirement.  The income will then be doubled—his pension and the new earnings after returning.  Another example is the public employee who leaves public service to be employed as a private lobbyist.  He then gets retirement and handsome remuneration as a lobbyist.  We like to pretend that this recurrence is not contrived—“being compensated as a lobbyist came upon me as a fresh opportunity out of the blue that I graciously accepted; I had no idea this was in my future.”  It behooves us not to become jaded by the constant practice of self-interested human foresight.  We, after all, did not just fall off the watermelon truck.  

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