Bryan Caplan  

The Most Interesting Blog Comment I've Ever Read

Planning vs. Experimentation... Milton Friedman on Big Busines...

No offense, Econlog contributors, but it's a reaction to Robin's post on deprogramming at Overcoming Bias:

The difference between the exit counselors and [famous deprogrammer] Ted Patrick seems to be one of commitment, much like what Pavlov worked on for the later years of his life. Pavlov is famous for his work with dogs, bells, and saliva, but his lesser known work with dogs and stress is applicable here. Pavlov spent the last part of his career testing the effects of stress on dogs. He started because one day a flood almost killed all of his dogs that were stuck in their cages. Pavlov found that after experiencing tremendous stress, the dogs stopped behaving like that previously had. Dogs that liked him before didn't anymore, and so on. From Poor Charlie's Almanack (2005):

"[He] spent the rest of his long life giving stress-induced nervous breakdowns to dogs, after which he would try to reverse the breakdowns, all the while keeping careful experimental records. He found (1) that he could classify dogs so as to predict how easily a particular dog would breakdown; (2) that the dogs hardest to break down were also the hardest to retrun to their prebreakdown state; (3) that any dog could be broken down; and (4) that he couldn't reverse a breakdown except by reimposing stress" (pp 435).

I'll be pondering these disturbing claims for days to come.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (7 to date)
Tim Lundeen writes:

The "he couldn't reverse a breakdown except by reimposing stress" part is particularly disturbing :-)

Fascinating info...

Randy writes:

PTSD. The hardwired parts of the brain get rewired. Makes sense that the rewiring can only be done by reapplying stress.

Bruce Cleaver writes:

Isn't this the whole purpose of Marine Corps boot camp?

Dennis Mangan writes:

A perfect illustration of Schopenhauer's dictum, that if animals had a religion, the earth would be its hell and mankind the devil.

C L writes:

Poor dogs

Adam writes:

Anybody who watched The Office last night got to see Jim program Dwight to reach for an altoid upon hearing a particular computer sound. Pretty good stuff; great show.

Jason Malloy writes:

From the Psychology of Brainwashing (Time Magazine, 1957):

In later work, which got little attention in the West, Pavlov sought to prove that dogs are of four temperamental types, "strong excitatory," "lively," "calm imperturbable, or phlegmatic," and "weak inhibitory." Further, he developed an elaborate theory of both positive and negative conditioned responses, which appear in varying patterns when a dog is subjected to unendurable stress ("trans-marginally stimulated"). A dog usually breaks down if the stress signal, e.g., an electric shock, is merely increased in intensity, also if an unwonted time lag is left between the signal and the food that follows, or if signals are simply mixed. A fourth way, and to Dr. Sargant the most important for human analogy, is to wear a dog down by subjecting it to excessive work (on a treadmill), upsetting its stomach with irregular feedings or bad food, or inducing a fever. Even if the first three fail to break down a "calm imperturbable" dog, the fourth will work, according to Pavlov.

I'm hungry. Let's get a taco.

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