Flash Fiction – Coffeebeans’ Dilemma – A Micro-story about the Challenges of Behaviorism

Instructional Design or ID Fiction, Short Stories and Cases set in the e-Learning and Corporate Training Environments
Cartoon of Coffeebeans the pup with an education who reflects upon training through the classical conditioning theory of behaviorism.

Why won’t she learn, wondered Coffeebeans. I must’ve gone wrong somewhere.

She sat down to think some more. Froth, the woman who had adopted her, appeared to be nice. She cared for her. She fed her the best food, and got her the best accessories, yet she failed to understand the basics.

Coffeebeans had tried Classical Conditioning and then she had tried Operant Conditioning, but none worked with Froth. Though she wasn’t keen on punishing the learner, but Coffeebeans had tried even that. Yet, her audience refused to learn that Coffeebeans didn’t like to eat the dry vegetarian kibble that she fed her all the time! If anything, Froth appeared to be truly dumb!

Coffeebeans had repeatedly refused to eat when she was served those green pebbles! She had even thrown up twice, and the woman had cleaned it up grudgingly. She had wagged her tail furiously every time Froth gave her chicken for dinner. Yet Froth hadn’t got the point. How dense could the humans be?

After about half a day worth of ruminations, Coffeebeans could see a thin sliver of light. Could it be that she wasn’t binding the reinforcements and punishments with her requirement correctly? Could it be that her human companion was misunderstanding her because she, Coffeebeans the pup with an education, was doing things wrong?

Coffeebeans remembered that there was a gap of time between the time she was served food and the time she approached them with the feedback. Though she wasn’t going wrong with her method of reinforcing “chicken” as a preferred fare, she definitely was not doing the right thing by guarding the vegetarian food that she didn’t want to eat anyway. She was indeed sending out mixed signals and confusing her audience.

It was time for Coffeebeans to correct her act.

If Coffeebeans were to achieve her aim, what should she do when Froth brought her:

  • vegetarian food (that she hates)?
  • non-vegetarian food (that she loves)?