Earlier I talked about how the psychological study of memory can give us clues about what qualities cause a story to be considered “good.” Today I’d like to examine the role behavioral psychology might play.
When people talk about behavioral psychology, the name that most often comes up is B.F. Skinner. Anyone who’s taken an introductory psychology course will have heard of him: he’s best known for his experiments with pigeons and rats in which he investigated how environmental stimuli affected their behavior. The principles he wrote about—particularly, that giving a reward (reinforcement) increases a behavior, while introducing a punishment decreases it—are widely used in many parts of our lives. Kids in school get stickers for good work and detention for bad behavior. An employee may get a raise for excellent performance and a reprimand for carelessness. Stop for a moment and think, and you can probably come up with a dozen ways you are reinforced (directly or subtly) for behaving “correctly,” and punished for a misstep.
But what does all that have to do with stories? I’d say rather a lot.
As before, comments both there and here are welcomed.