When we were starting out with D/s, Robbie told me that the best way to “train” any creature, animal or human, was to give it positive reinforcement–but not all of the time. I expressed disbelief as well as minor outrage. (My minor outrage is like someone else’s all-out rant, by the way.)

“It’s true,” he said. “They’ve done lots of studies on it.”

I knew at the time he was right–I couldn’t say why but I knew. I think it had to do with taking things for granted. If you always get complimented on what you wear, you figure you’re owed it. Getting compliments, say, 75% percent of the time keeps you working for it, if compliments are what you crave.

So in my continuing excess surfing of teh innernet, I happened across an illuminating comment on Penny’s blog Birds Are Smart. The commentator was Helen, about whom I know nothing except that she writes quite colorful and interesting commentary several places. She said:

So, three mice, three cages. One mouse pushes a lever, gets a food pellet. Another mouse pushes the lever, gets nothing. The third mouse pushes the lever. Now this mouse, sometimes she gets a food pellet, and sometimes she doesn’t.

Which one do you think pushes the lever obsessively? That’s right, the third one. The first mouse eats until she’s not hungry, wanders off. The second mouse figures out there’s nothing going on and trots off to watch reruns of Seinfeld.

But the third mouse wants to understand. Why?

That’s the rub, isn’t it? Being the kind of beasts that want to understand, “why”?

Illustrations by Rob Bridges, via Lost At E Minor.