The Skinner Box

There was a box. Inside the box was a button. Above the button was a screen. On the screen was some simple text.

Push the button.

Some people were standing around the box. They were smiling and laughing. They were sharing stories about how well-made the button was, and how compelled they were to keep pushing it. Some of them were even her friends. She gave into curiosity and pushed the button.

The text changed.

Great job! You did it!
But can you push it twice?

Could she push it twice? Were they kidding? It sounded pretty dumb. And yet, all those enthusiastic fans… She pushed the button twice.

You have earned a number!
How big can you make your number?

She kept pushing for a few minutes, to see if there would be any more messages. And there were. After ten pushes, she got a Congratulations! After 50, there was a I can’t believe it! After 250, Incredible!

The messages seemed to take longer and longer to reach. She assumed there would be one at 500, and kept pressing just to check. She was right. She had to admit, it felt good to be cleverer than a stupid box.

By the time she reached 2500 (You are such a talented button presser!), her finger was getting tired. She decided to give up and walk away. But then, the text changed again…

Your friend Josh has pressed the button 72,543 times. Are you just gonna let them beat you?

She squared her jaw, stretched her fingers, and prepared to annihilate stupid Josh’s high score.


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