Causation

fb_img_1552696891627Fleur has gleeful look when adults make weird sounds before doing something funny. Nose boops, tickles, and the like. She loves the stuff from people she likes. And doing it well, is a good way into her favorite people list.

Dopamine is thought of as the reward neurotransmitter. But, it is more complicated. It is what we get anticipating a reward. Say, you are playing a video game, dopamine surges to ensure you focus and persevere to achieve the level or match.

The noise right before tells her it is coming. Classical conditioning pairs a neutral stimulus with a desired one. The prior one is neutral the first time, but after she has paired it with the desired stimulus and anticipates the desired one. It seems like she enjoys the anticipation almost as much.

In getting mobile and manipulating objects, she is learning to use operant conditioning as well. She exerts her will on the world around her. This takes the form of doing the same thing over and over both using the same technique to confirm it works and adjusting to see what might work better. The other day she was trying to get into my tablet and tapping different spots to see how it reacted. You could see the Scientific Method in action: hypothesis, design test, execute test, evaluate result, new hypothesis.

Something I never thought about in university psychology classes was the impressive nature of linking things into causal chains. If this, then that. Over and over. Both forms of conditioning require understanding causation. The sponge that is Fleur’s brain seems to seek out understanding causation. And happiness to me is creating an environment for her try things and figure out how they work.

Storytelling as behavior modification

On how the Inuit control anger starting with young children.

Across the board, all the moms mention one golden rule: Don’t shout or yell at small children.

Traditional Inuit parenting is incredibly nurturing and tender. If you took all the parenting styles around the world and ranked them by their gentleness, the Inuit approach would likely rank near the top.

The culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate, says Lisa Ipeelie, a radio producer and mom who grew up with 12 siblings. “When they’re little, it doesn’t help to raise your voice,” she says. “It will just make your own heart rate go up.”

Traditionally, the Inuit saw yelling at a small child as demeaning. It’s as if the adult is having a tantrum; it’s basically stooping to the level of the child.

Where the article gets really interesting is the use of storytelling. They have oral stories passed down ever generations that are designed to shape behavior to prevent bad behavior. So, instead of raising your voice, you seed their imagination that they are going to suffer if they do the bad thing and softly remind them about this potentiality. Or perform satire of the bad behavior to make the perpetrator of it appear childish.

I also love how this ties into the traditions of storytelling. I view blogging as the modern equivalent: a medium of passing along information for the social group. Bloggers are modern griots. A tribe’s storyteller holds a prized position in the group, which is due, I think, to how our brains are wired to better understand information in the form of a story.

Kid jokes

I love reading about the incongruity of the kids of friends. Part of why I started this is in hopes of reporting on the best of Fleur’s. The Atlantic has a good article “Knock Knock. Who’s There? Kids. Kids Who? Kids Tell Terrible Jokes.“:

“Even when their parents are feeding them ‘dad jokes’ to try to teach them about humor, half of the jokes that kids hear, they don’t quite get.” So it’s only natural, Dubinsky says, for some children to believe that a couple of absurd or mismatched concepts assembled into a familiar “knock-knock” or “What do you call …” structure adds up to a joke.

“Kids say, ‘Oh, jokes are about incongruity. I’ll show you some incongruity,’” Dubinsky says. “But they haven’t got the sophistication to construct an incongruity that’s going to be resolvable.”

Which, coincidentally, sometimes results in jokes that resemble a more advanced form of humor: an “anti-joke.” Anti-jokes deliberately deny the audience a clever or satisfying punch line, and they often serve as edgy or sophisticated commentary on jokes themselves.

Poor Fleur will suffer from “dad jokes.” She already hears them. She just has no idea she is inundated with them. And I love me some incongruity. So much of my attention is analyzing rules from social behavior to code to business process rules. I am always interested in the how and why to tease out mismatches to learn from them. Maybe that is why I love “dad jokes” so much?