Operant Conditioning

Learning through association of a behavior with rewards and punishment. We tend to do more of the things that make us feel good rather than feel bad.

See also:

  • Atomic Habits which talks about designing for establishing good habits and stopping bad habits as a way of piggybacking off of operant conditioning (although I don’t think the term is ever mentioned in the book).
  • Ads Work Via Cultural Imprinting

    Ads don’t work by creating a Pavlovian response through association (emotional inception), they work through changing the cultural landscape around us (cultural imprinting). Ads create the impression that everyone else has made the association between a product and a context. Therefore, we make rational decisions by fitting into how other people may perceive what we buy. This largely explains why common consumer goods (highly visible purchases by others) are more effectively advertised at large scale (like the Super Bowl watched by 100MM people).

  • Ego Depletion

    Baumeister and Tice introduced the concept that willpower is a finite resource that can be exhausted when used because it requires mental energy. The original experiments involved a willpower depleting task that requires self-control (e.g. don’t eat that cookie) followed by a task that requires a lot of mental effort (e.g. a quiz). They found that participants performed better when they were not first given the willpower depleting task.