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Dog Brains and Candy Crush

I’ve heard a million times that dogs are gamblers. If they’ve been given enough rewards for particular behavior, they will keep trying that behavior, even if the rewards are inconsistent. We often teach dogs to sit by giving them a treat every time they get it right — for a while. Then we treat them half the time for a sit, then a quarter of the time, and then every once in a while. Sometimes they get one treat, and sometimes they get a jackpot of lots of treats. And sometimes they get jack shit. But they’ll gamble on sit, just in case a treat or ten might follow.

I understood this intellectually, but I found myself gambling, dog-style, while playing Candy Crush last night. Then I really got it.

When you get to the higher levels in Candy Crush, there are these colored eggs with question marks on them. Sometimes, they are good things, like striped candies that take out a whole row or wrapped candies that explode and take out a grid of other candies. But sometimes they are obstacles, like chocolate that takes over other candies or blocks that stand in the way of your Candy Crush greatness.

So even though sometimes I get no reward — and sometimes I get an obstacle — I still try to match those question mark candies first. I gamble that I’ll get something good, maybe a speckled candy that takes an entire color off the board. Maybe I get a small treat, maybe I get a jackpot, and maybe I get jack shit. Just like my dog, I’ll gamble on the good stuff.

 

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