Take a rat and put it in a cage. Put a lever in the cage. The rat will wander around the cage for a while, sniffing the corners, looking around making sure there are not predators in the neighborhood. After a while it will wander by the lever. Sooner or later it will push it.
Hot chunks of cheese, Ratman! A pellet of food dropped down. Wow, look at that, I press it again and another pellet drops down. Jiminy Cricket, rat heaven, here I come!
Now hook up a counter to the lever. Don’t feed the rat every time it presses the lever but only at certain times. Or even better, copy the rat and put it in three separate cages (or if you’re less SciFi minded, start out with three different rats).
In one cage the rat will get a pellet every 100 times it presses the lever.
In another cage the rat will get a pellet at a random interval, at between 1 and 100 presses.
In a third the rat will never get a pellet no matter how much it presses the lever.
What do you think will happen? If you answered that rat C will quit while rat A will presses the lever the required 100 times and gets the pellet you are correct. Rat B, the one with the random intervals, will press the lever as well. But here’s the catch: it will press the lever faster than rat A. Not knowing when you’ll get the pellet is more exciting than knowing that you’ve got to perform your required 100 presses for a surefire Ratilicious Surprise.
Here’s the real kicker though: take away the pellets and rat B will go bananas, clicking like crazy until it keels over. Read More