Thursday, October 12, 2006


Here is another "entertaining" paper from my Psychology class. Also, notice the "tags" at the end of the post. I am working on learning a set structure on how to tag my posts. I'm trying to keep them general topics that will lead you to similar posts if you found something that interests you. For example, when I am doing a series of posts like this, they will have a unique tag (in this case "Psychology Paper") so that you can easily pull up the rest of the series if you so desire. (Examples of other common tags are "Spirituality", "Movie Reviews", "Ukraine", "Book Reviews", "Missions", "News" etc.)


Operant conditioning, so named by psychologist B. F. Skinner, is the modification of behavior brought about over time by the consequences of said behavior. The phrase operant conditioning differs from Pavlovian conditioning in that while operant conditioning deals with voluntary behavior explained by its consequences, Pavlovian conditioning deals with involuntary behavior triggered by its antecedents. The two main aspects of operant conditioning is positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is when a response is strengthened by the subsequent presentation of a stimulus while a negative reinforcement is when a response is strengthened by the subsequent removal of a noxious stimulus.

After working 40+ hour weeks in an office/cubicle setting, I got hooked on Coffee. Not addictively, but more or less as a result of my environment. My team at work often goes down to the cafe to get coffee, so I casually picked it up for social reasons. When college started up with 15 credits and I continued to work 30 hour weeks, on top of working out at the gym, church related activities, and still hanging by threads to my social life - something had to give. Unfortunately, I was far from willing to let go of any of these. It was at this point that I went from being a casual social coffee drinker to a fanatically coffee junkie.

Many would chalk this sad story up to be another soul lost to the addictive caffeinated properties of this black poison, but while I am not denying these properties of Java, under the surface I am really a case of operant conditioning. The behavior that was being increased was the consumption of Go Juice. This behavior was strengthened through a series of positive and negative reinforcements.

If I drank a Cup of Jolt I could function as a normal student, be involved, grow, and learn. This was thereby positively reinforced with good grades, enjoyment of life, and a sense of satisfaction. If I did not drink my I would have an extremely tough time trying to stay awake in my cubicle at work. In my comfy chair, I would throw on some headphones, zone out to some Jars of Clay, and consequently start to nod off in front of the monitor. Although I was never reprimanded for this inexcusable behavior, the fear and worry to know that if I was caught was a very strong negative reinforcement in and of itself.

I was also finding it very hard to accomplish any form of homework. Without my Liquid Lightening I would get home after a day of class, work, and any other activities that day and crash. My eye lids would be so brick laden and my body was so syphoned of energy that I would eat dinner and collapse in bed.

The last example, much like the previous two, is somewhat of a mix between positive and negative reinforcement. Shouldering the schedule that I was, I realized my Morning Thunder was key to grasping on to threads that were left connecting me to some distant skewed form of a social life. My positive reinforcement was simply being able to hang out with friends after work, as opposed to just going home and crashing in bed. This leads to the negative reinforcement aspect. If I didn’t get my daily Brewtus, I ended up getting socially depressed which led me back to coffee so I could live a quasi-normal life again.
David Knepprath
February 2, 2006

Note: My addiction is not limited to coffee. It very much so includes tea, which I prefer in many cases. However, I focused solely on coffee because of peoples preconceived notions about coffee, as well as for the simplicity of the paper.


Mirranda said...

I had no idea there were so many odd metaphors for coffee...

Good paper. :)

Jen said...

this brings back memeories especially the 2nd paragraph about Skinner and Pavlovian theories
from when I was teacher training

Melany said...

I never realized there could be so many benefits to an addiction... :)

Melissa Jo said...

Guess what I am doing now...commenting on your addiction to coffee and all things relating to it :) ON YOUR BLOG! -mel

David Knepprath said...

Thanks Mel! :)

Anonymous said...

Hey man, did you know, that tea has twice the caffine then coffee. And tea is better for you anyways. :) Go with teh tea bro. hehe. Im all about tea. You have to have a cup of tea from this side of the world, to actually experience the true taste of tea. :) You should come visit, and I'll make you some tea. haha. I used to go 3 large cups of coffee, untill I realize what I was doing. Im crazy enough normally with my normal amount of sugar, what the heck was I doing with coffee ? And I know tea would be worse, with more caffine, but it doesn't stunt my growth, nor give me stomach aches after my third cup. :P :)