I am a woman born 1949 and my quest is to find a mindmate
to grow old together as a mutually devoted couple
in a relationship based upon the
egalitarian rational commitment paradigm
bonded by intrinsic commitment
as each other's safe haven and secure basis.

The purpose of this blog is to enable the right man
to recognize us as reciprocal mindmates and
to encourage him to contact me:

The entries directly concerning,
who could be my mindmate,
are mainly at the beginning.
If this is your predominant interest,
I suggest to read this blog in the same order
as it was written, following the numbers.

I am German, therefore my English is sometimes faulty.

Maybe you have stumbled upon this blog not as a potential match.
Please wait a short moment before zapping.

Do you know anybody, who could be my mindmate?
Your neighbour, brother, uncle, cousin, colleague, friend?
If so, please tell him to look at this blog.
While you have no reason to do this for me,
a stranger, maybe you can make someone happy, for whom you care.

Do you have your own webpage or blog,
which someone like my mindmate to be found probably reads?
If so, please mention my quest and add a link to this blog.

Friday, July 30, 2010

34. Praying is Motivated by Intermittent Reinforcement

Praying is Motivated by Intermittent Reinforcement

Rationally seen, it is ridiculous and weird to ask an entity or being for help, advice and support, in the case that nobody has ever seen him, and that there is no proof of his existence.  
Why should an invisible pink elephant in the cupboard give food to someone hungry?    But if the being is called god instead of elephant, and is located somewhere else, people not only ask for help, they have no doubt that they will get it, they believe that asking god in prayer is a promising way to acquire resources and achieve goals.     

Something is happening in people's brains to give them the delusion that prayer works.   There seem to be three major errors, but maybe there are more that I have not thought of yet.

1.   Error in attributing a wrong cause to an experienced consequence.
1.1.   Someone in a needy situation makes some effort to solve the problem and he also prays.   He attributes his success to the prayer instead of to his effort.   
1.2.  Someone prays for something that can happen by chance, but only sometimes.    When it happens, he attributes it to the prayer, not to the probability of occurrence.
1.3.  If the prayer in 1.1. and 1.2  fails, he attributes this to lack of quantity or quality in his praying zeal.     

2.  Error due to biased information about the fulfilled prayers of others.   
Cases of subjective success of prayers might get much more publicly known than the cases of failure.      
2. 1. In the cases 1.1. or 1.2., a proud adherent to his faith is prone to talk about it and make it known to many people.   
2.2.  When prayer fails, it might not get noticed by others.  
When a person might feel ashamed for the lack of quality and quantity of his praying zeal, he might conceal it. 
When a person is in severe peril, he might not survive so the failure of his prayer gets never known. 

3.  Error attributing bad experiences of others to their not praying.
People are sometimes the victims of some disaster.  If the disaster happens to atheists and all, who do not pray, religious people consider that disaster as a consequence of not praying, therefore they conclude that by praying, they can prevent disaster for themselves.   

Mislead by these three errors, people believe that they will eventually get a positive result, if they keep on praying long enough.   While prayer fails, this is considered as either lack of praying zeal or as serving a purpose in the will of their deity, that is not to be understood.   

Thus, praying is a very persistent behaviour, because it gets intermittent reinforcement.   
If a rat gets food every time after pressing a lever, it will stop pressing it very soon, once there is no more food given.  Intermittent reinforcement means:  If a rat gets food only irregularly after pressing the lever, it will keep on pressing the lever for a long time, even if there is very rarely any food given, and it will stop its attempts only after a long time, if there is no more food at all.

Thus, praying people are just like the rats.   They pray for a wish, and once in a while, something happens that reinforces their delusion that the prayer were successful.   Therefore they keep on praying.    

Error 1 and 2 have been adapted from Chapter 4 of the book by Michael A. Persinger:  Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs.  (1987) 
Only he talks about the force of magic thinking and does not mention prayer.    This is a very fascinating book.  
This is also a text taken from 'The Nonconformists' and Freethinkers' haven.