Negative Reinforcement- possible personal example

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To begin, I'm allergic to cats. Specifically, the dander that cats shed, not the popular misconception of allergies to the fur. One of my cousin's family owned a cat for about 12 years, and whenever I'd visit I would need to bring my asthma inhaler because allergies to cats is a common irritant to asthma; the effects would be difficulty breathing, coughing etc. I visited many times before and after the cat passed away and had the same ashtmatic reaction everytime. Only after reading chapter 6 in the text book regarding negative reinforcement did I put a name to my finding. I wondered why the reactions didn't subside after the cat died, because the family cleaned the house everyday and without a constant source of cat dander, there'd be nothing to trigger my reactions.
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The definition of negative reinforcement is, "removal of stimulus that strengthens the probability of behavior" (Lilienfeld, 213). I believe that the reason I continued to cough, etc, before I used the inhaler, is that just seeing the house maybe triggered a reaction within my body, of the cat, and the results was my regular asthma. Inhalers act immediately and one can't use an inhaler before hand as a preventative medicine, but only once you're feeling the effect of the asthma. My body perhaps experienced negative reinforcement, in that, every time I visited my cousins house, I'd use my inhaler at some point, right after I felt the effects of asthma.Below is what an inhaler looks like, and how it is used, for those who are curious.inhaler.jpg

By using my inhaler, I therefore removed the stimulus that was bothering me (the difficulty breathing due to cat dander, and resulting expanding of my airways) and reinforced the behavior that at my cousins house, I'd start feeling the effects of my asthma and use my inhaler to stop them. I find this really incredible, but Occam's razor could prove me wrong: maybe the cat dander simply hasn't all been cleaned, perhaps it's still stuck to the clothes, carpet, etc. There are many ways to falsify this claim, but I feel that it could be a possibility that the reason I continue to feel the effects of my asthma at my cousins house, without the cat, is that my body is enduring negative reinforcement. Perhaps after a couple years, I will even experience extinction of this response, without the stimulus.
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And finally, some humor to end with.

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This page contains a single entry by saly0015 published on October 23, 2011 9:05 PM.

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