pigeon superstition : Java Glossary


pigeon superstition
When Skinner was training pigeons to do various things for food rewards, a pigeon one day might stand on one leg and incidentally receive a food reward. Even though standing on one leg had nothing to do with getting the reward, the pigeon would ever after stand on one leg when it pecked away at the computer panels. The behaviour would be reinforced, since it appeared to work. Human computer programmers form often pigeon superstitions when they change severals things about a non-working computer program and it starts working. They assume all the things they did were necessary, and proselytise to others about their necessity. These superstitions are for the most part harmless, but they do make needless extra work.

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