February 20, 2009

My days are entirely consumed with donkeys and dogs.

I spent the morning in a coffee shop (sun streaming warm windows smell of books) working on the first scene of Donkey Xote, listening to Flamenco as I wrote. Sure, I was surrounded by Portland hipsters sipping their macchiatos, reading the paper or Proust or Pinter, but my mind was elsewhere. And this elsewhere was a barnyard. In Spain.

Then, in the afternoon, I journeyed to Wonder Puppy's new space, where I spent several hours studying for the CPDT exam (Certification for Pet Dog Trainers). It's March 18 and it's four hours long and 250 questions and it's making me a little nervous because I haven't taken a test in a million years and I paid $350 to take this one and I have spent three years preparing for it and I really really need to pass.

Aside from hiking with Obie and dining with Sam and hanging with my roomies, at any given point in time, I am more than likely either thinking about the Spanish word for rooster or the definition of a Variable Ratio Reinforcement Schedule.

Do you care? Well, I'm going to tell you regardless, because at this very moment I am decidedly not working on the script or the exam, and am instead writing a journal entry… about the script and the exam. So:

The Spanish word for rooster is gallo.

Variable Ratio is a type of operant conditioning reinforcement schedule in which reinforcement is given to a response after specific amount of time has passed (an unpredictable amount of time), but this amount of time is on a changing/variable schedule. This is almost identical to a Fixed-Interval Schedule but the reinforcements are given on a variable or changing schedule. Although the schedule changes, there is a pattern — the amount of time that must pass changes, but the reinforcement is given after "N"th amount of time passes, where N is the average amount of time that must pass. You conduct a study in which a rat is put on a VI 10 second schedule (the operant response is pressing a lever). This means that the rat will get reinforced when it waits an average of 10 seconds and then presses the lever. However, because it is an average, the rat may have to wait 30 seconds one trial, then only 2 seconds the next, 30 the next, 50 the next, 1 second the next, and so on... just as long as it all averages out to reinforcement being delivered after an average interval of 10 seconds. In addition, sometimes the researcher can make the time interval start all over again if the organism makes an operant response before the proper time has elapsed. So, if the organism makes a response before it is supposed to, the interval starts all over again (if it was supposed to wait 30 seconds on that trial, the 30 seconds starts all over again).

So. Now you know.

It's 9:45 on a Friday night and this is how I am spending my time. Seriously, how cool am I?