Joy (cithra) wrote,

Extinction burst

I am choosing to see all the ugly sexism and racism that is floating around out there as extinction burst behavior. When a conditioned behavior is no longer rewarded, it often results in an brief and intense increase of that behavior before the realization that there is no longer going to be a reward sets in. So a pigeon who has been getting grain by pressing a bar, when the grain stops coming, will frantically peck at the bar for a while before giving up and moving on. So people who have in the past gotten away with sexist and racist behavior, as that becomes less and less acceptable, respond with a horrible outpouring of offensiveness, because it used to work, it used to get them what they wanted, it used to be socially rewarding in some way.

So I take a deep breath, and keep on keeping on, and truly believe that after a time the flailing and the crap-storm will pass. This doesn't mean sitting down, and it doesn't mean shutting up - on the contrary, it is vital to maintain a lack of reinforcement, it is vital that the social rewards for bullying and racism and sexism continue to diminish. The longer it isn't rewarding, the better off we all are, and the closer we are to the end of the burst behavior.

Now, I'm off to naively try to figure out how bad things have to get in places like Ohio and Texas before it is reasonable to call in Medicine Sans Frontiers for proper perinatal care and family planning services. They seem to be the ones to go to when the government breaks down and fails to provide appropriate medical care, yes? If we can get them involved maybe it will shock some folks into seeing how things have deteriorated. Well, I can dream.

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