Media Production Project

            Doctor Elliot Ludvig from Warwick’s Department of Psychology, with colleagues at Princeton and Brown Universities, came up with an experiment that displays that forming good, or bad, habits depends on how often an action is performed rather than how much satisfaction the action ensues. The researchers created a computer simulation, where digital rodents were given a choice of two levers, one of which was associated with the chance of getting a reward. The lever with the reward was labelled the ‘correct’ lever, and the lever without the reward was labelled the ‘wrong’ lever. The reward was swapped between the two levers, and the simulated rodents were then trained to pick the ‘correct’ lever. Doctor Elliot Ludvig, Associate Professor in the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology and one of the paper’s authors, commented, “Much of what we do is driven by habits, yet how habits are learned and formed is still somewhat mysterious. Our work sheds new light on this question by building a mathematical model of how simple repetition can lead to the types of habits we see in people and other creatures. “

            When the digital rodents were trained for a short period of time, they managed to pick the new, ‘correct’ lever when the lever with the reward changed. However, when they were trained extensively on just one lever, the digital rats stuck with the ‘wrong’ lever stubbornly, even when it had no chance of giving them a reward. Rather than having a chance of getting rewarded, the rodents stuck with the lever they were trained on. Dr Amitai Shenhav, Assistant Professor in Brown University’s Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences and one of the paper’s authors, commented, “Psychologists have been trying to understand what drives our habits for over a century, and one of the recurring questions is how much habits are a product of what we want versus what we do. Our model helps to answer that by suggesting that habits themselves are a product of our previous actions, but in certain situations those habits can be supplanted by our desire to get the best outcome.” This model could potentially be a small step towards understanding human habits more concisely.

Reflection

            When I was writing the summary for the article, I did not really think too much about the five questions because I felt like a summary should stay true to its source. Changing the summary so it fits all five categories would be changing the story and, hence skewing the truth. I did have some difficulty in keeping the summary concise enough to fit the length of the article. The most difficulty was deciding which details to cut out and which to keep, while keeping the reader in mind. I did not want to have the length required but end up writing a confusing summary. To make sure the limited number of words were enough, I used quotes from the people who ran the experiments. My summary was aimed at the general public, so I tried my best to keep it to basic terms to avoid confusion. The main mission was to make sure that the summary was understandable by everyone and easily interpreted, so anyone could pick it up and know what is going on.

            Doing this has given me some appreciation for journalists because it is very difficult to make a summary on an experiment and keep it interesting. If I had to pick between my summary and the article, I think it would be the article because going over both, mine is missing something. The article seems to appeal more to me, possibly because it was written by someone with more experience. The article also had an interesting title that made you want to read it more, granted the title was clickbait and overstated the extent of the experiment I still find it effective.


Citation:

University of Warwick. “Train the brain to form good habits through repetition.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190128105227.htm>.

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