Pavlovian Literature

If it sounds like I'm mixing metaphors, I kind of am.

Some of you probably remember from your basic psych courses that Ivan Pavlov was a man that rang a bell to let dogs know that it was time to eat, then measured their physiological responses when the bell was rung, but no food was in evidence.

There was a similar experiment performed by a man named B.F. Skinner, who stuck pigeons in a box and gave them food when they pushed a button. When you see accusations of certain games, classes, or scenarios being described as a "skinner box," this is the man it's referring to, equating the scenario, class, or game to the box in which the pigeon was encouraged to perform a monotonous task in return for a reward of food.

Why am I talking about behavioral psychology and physiology? Because here's the thing: sometimes I "pavlov" my friends into accepting a (relatively) predictable skinner box. Do this thing, and you will receive a reward.

This is a style of manipulation I use on my friends quite frequently, bribing them into doing the things they need to do with more energy by providing a reward at the end of the task, which is usually undesirable in some way.

So when I refer to "Pavlovian Literature," what I'm talking about are these scenes, short-stories, and scripts that I use to motivate my friends. The thing about Pavlovian Literature is that it has an extremely small audience. That is - one person. It's unlikely that a larger group would think that such things are as interesting as the author and the audience to, since they are by nature more personal and focused than stories written with a larger audience in mind.

Or are they?

So here's the thing:

All the way through college and also afterward in professional scenarios, I was informed that I need to write "with an eye to my audience." I need to write things "to the audience's taste" or "to the audience's level," if I'm working on children's literature.

But very recently, I was in a position to share a thing I wrote for a specific person and to a specific person's taste with a larger and more varied audience than I had before attempted. And to my surprise, I received little or no negative feedback. Not even so mild a comment as "I wish this had more of my character in it" or "it would have been cool if such-and-such happened."

Now, this is an extremely small sample size, and as my stats professor said repeatedly: "You can have no generalization without randomization." Without a significant and random sample, no generalized conclusion can be drawn.

But I have a theory, which is corroborated in part by successful published authors in genres that I enjoy.

If I have fun writing it, then the audience will enjoy reading it, even if it's not exactly to their taste.

Now, that's not an unqualified statement, of course. There are people that write what they enjoy and I don't like it at all, either because it's in a genre I don't like or because it's poorly written. But to an extent, I think this theory might bare exploring. Because if I can write for myself and produce something that people like me enjoy, then it might be far easier for me to do that than to try to contort myself to fit into a box that wasn't built for me.

I will update you Inklings when I have more information. Keep your eyes out for more on this in the future.

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