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 Post subject: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:58 pm 
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For quite some time now I have been planning to start a topic like this, but then somehow always forgot. It is supposed to be a thread where I will write down random thoughts that come to my mind during the day, things that just keep me busy for a while and then disappear. Things that probably aren't really important but just interesting for me to think about. Everyone who wants to use this topic for writing down his own thoughts is very welcome to do so of course. :)

..................................................

At my work I sometimes have to do tasks that I postpone as long as possible. At the moment one of these things is writing a revision of an article. I know that it needs to be done and I also know that it isn't that bad (or actually quite fun) once I do it. However, for some reason it is hard for me to find the motivation to get started instead of trying to find all kinds of other tasks as an excuse why I have no time for it.

Anyway, today all my excuses were used up so that after all I did start to work on the revision. As expected, after only a few minutes I realized that indeed it was fun, and when my colleagues called me for lunch I did not even want to go (but then did because I think I should try to be a social person now and then). During lunch, I intentionally reminded myself that I had really liked working on the article. But still, when I came back into the office my motivation was back to the low level where it had been before and I even caught myself looking for the next excuse to do something else. This was the case despite knowing better, and even though it had been only about half an hour before that I had had that very pleasant experience.

Luckily I know myself a little by now, so I have a rule that I must get started no matter what and no matter how - even when this means that I begin by simply typing random letters or notes into the manuscript. And then it's always the same: as soon as I am busy doing something, the ideas come flowing more and more easily, and in no time I am enjoying my work again. But the initiation is a bit tricky again and again. Therefore, I feel very fortunate that in many aspects of my life I do not have total freedom, and that for example I must go feed the horses every day (after first cycling uphill for half an hour to get there). I am loving this and it makes me the happy and optimistic person I am. But I guess that if I did not have to do these things, I might well end up sitting in my room all day, first becoming bored and then in the end maybe even depressed. So thanks for everyday duties, and thanks for being constrained! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 8:42 pm 
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I recognise a lot of your thoughts!
Here we have a phrase that even got it's own abbreviation: study avoiding behaviour. I'm often suffering from this, or better, I make the decision to have this. My computer is at the same time a source of inspiration and fun and one of study avoidance. While I'm doing my homework I'm continually checking Facebook and other websites. Once I'm really into my homework things go quite well, but when I don't know the answer on a question I find it easier to check some websites again. I'm not as far as you, that I can always recollect myself and start somehow, but very slowly I get better at it. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:16 am 
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I also struggle with starting things that I have to do (just typing anything and not worrying about how good it is helps me get going on assignments as well). What I find the hardest is getting motivation for just studying. Uni at the moment seems to revolve around learning huge amounts of information which I find so boring. I have resorted to writing up my notes in different ways and making random tables. But the internet is so distracting - I find something interesting and then half an hour later I am onto to something completely different :ieks: .


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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 10:37 am 
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I completely understand this feeling as well. I do it both at uni and at work and just in general at home (especially when related to cleaning anything!).

I even do it with yoga. I love yoga and have been going to a lot of classes lately and really enjoying the benefits of it and the way that my body is changing. But despite this I still find it almost impossible to find the motivation to do yoga much at home. Once I start though I love it and will often continue for an hour or so. But I rarely seem to get to that point of actually getting to my mat.

In some ways I sort of think Billy is a lot like this too. Sometimes he takes a little extra encouragement to motivate him to play and move, but once he does he totally brightens up. I suppose in a lot of ways this is why I combine positive and negative reinforcement. A lot of the time with him I find I just need that little bit of pressure to push him and encourage him to move, and once he starts he enjoys it.

In the past I have been a little concerned about doing this, but since I have learnt more about myself and my own motivation I can see it in a different (more positive) way. My yoga teacher frequently pushes me to try things I didn't think I could do, or thought I was too tired to. And I love it. If she didn't do that I wouldn't try and I wouldn't have ever attempted any inversions (headstand, shoulderstand, handstand etc). But once I started trying I felt this overwhelming sense of intrinsic motivation. The movements and the challenge are so rewarding and that keeps me going now.

There does seem to be this bit of a thing where extrinsic motivation is required just to get momentum up and then it can switch to intrinsic motivation. I see intrinsic motivation as something of an ultimate goal for myself in many activities and for my interactions with Billy. Ultimately I want our interactions to be intrinsically rewarding.

I have gone off topic a little bit here, but this is just something I have been thinking about and need more time to develop my thoughts on! If necessary this can be moved to a more relevant thread, but I think it is definitely related to that motivation you are talking about :D

Thanks for this wonderful thread Romy!

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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:42 am 
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sweetleigh wrote:
In some ways I sort of think Billy is a lot like this too. Sometimes he takes a little extra encouragement to motivate him to play and move, but once he does he totally brightens up. I suppose in a lot of ways this is why I combine positive and negative reinforcement. A lot of the time with him I find I just need that little bit of pressure to push him and encourage him to move, and once he starts he enjoys it.

In the past I have been a little concerned about doing this, but since I have learnt more about myself and my own motivation I can see it in a different (more positive) way.
Thank you Jessie! This is exactly what I've been thinking about and been doing lately! :applause: I'm so glad to read this from you here, because I can so relate to everything you just wrote - from Yoga to the horses, actually :D

I have to same feeling about using pressure with Mucki, that I can use a little nudge to get his thoughts from out of the paddock and his friends to the arena and body work. And when we do, he enjoys it! He loves to move proudly and experiment with his body. He loves to learn ways to move better.
Yesterday for example we had a perfect example of this. He was rather motivated, but when he saw that I wanted to lunge him, he was not so eager ;) But I had arranged a nice array of obstacles to keep his attention at the work and on the ground. I also did a lot of changes of gait, circle size and speed. Soon, he was wonderfully immersed in the exercise and in the end we did some really amazing trot extensions just with mimicry. And he was beaming with pride afterwards! :love:
So like you said we went from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation. But I would have never gotten him that far with just free shaping, or asking him if he wanted to do that. It's a thin line of course and I don't want to pressurise him into things he doesn't like. But like yesterday I'm convinced that it was the right decision...

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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 5:30 pm 
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Today I have been wondering about the way people think about the impressions other people are getting of them. Contrary to some theoretical approaches that suggest that people want to maximize the positivity of these views, I have noticed that at least in my case this does not always fit. Actually in some areas I do not want (some) people to have a very favourable evaluation of my abilities.

One example is intelligence. Perhaps that is due to the fact that this has never been an issue for me, because I had it rather easy in school and other areas of my life that require certain intellectual capacities, or perhaps also because I was lucky to have had a supportive environment that did not make me feel dumb. Anyway, I am constantly amused by the way some people speak and act in order to make themselves seem smart, and that behaviour seems so strange to me. I'd rather do the opposite and have the listener think I am not that smart.

I have been wondering what functional relevance this has for me. There is one very obvious advantage that is very relevant in my job, namely that when people do not think too highly of me, they dare to be very open in their criticism and questioning of the things I am presenting. This in turn gives me much more helpful feedback than I would get if they kept their doubts to themselves because they think I know better (I am always so sorry for some professors who hardly ever get a chance to learn from feedback because nobody speaks his mind).

This benefit became obvious to me yesterday when I was presenting a research plan to one of my two groups of colleagues. From the way some of them were making their comments and suggestions it was totally obvious to me that they had not understood the topic (as we work on very different things, there is no blame to be put on them at all and they cannot know it, I should simply have explained it better). However, the way they were talking also made it very clear that they were absolutely convinced I had simply not thought it through enough.

Now the funny thing was that when I watched myself in this situation, I noticed that I was kind of enjoying this under-evaluation. I have no idea whether this really is because I want the helpful feedback, actually this explanation seems a bit too rational to me. But whatever it is, it is so much fun for me to observe the world and my action in it as if I was holding a snowstorm globe with myself and other weird little objects in it. :smile:


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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 4:41 pm 
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I was just thinking about the way some people seem to make certain associations between valence judgements and honesty.

Recently, I experienced this in another forum, where there are several people from my area. Someone from another area was asking about the quality of the trails around here because she considered moving to our part of the country, and I said that I thought they were great, with all the forests and fields and so on. Immediately, some others posted that they strongly disagreed and found the options for riding outside around our city totally innacceptable for several reasons. Interestingly, they seemed to find it very necessary to emphasize that they did not want to scare her away but that instead of giving her false hopes they wanted to be honest.

This seemed so interesting to me. Not the fact that they had a different opinion than I have - I am used to other people complaining about things I am absolutely content with and thankful for. What puzzled me was the automatic connection they made between being negative about something and being honest. These two concepts seemed to be so logically related to them. Being more negative than me did not seem to have to do anything with personal evaluation systems for them but exclusively with the way you present or hide The Truth.

I will have to think of this some more, because I find it really fascinating.


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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:50 am 
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It's before six in the morning and I woke up with a weird thought that I wanted to write down here so that I won't forget it and can think about it some more later. It's about the connection between liking someone and impolite behaviour.

Actually it's something I noticed about myself yesterday when examining some of our students together with my boss. He is an elderly man who will retire this year, a Russian with all the positive stereotypes: he is one of the warmest and most outgoing and friendly people I know, while at the same time being so very wise. He has taught me so many things over the years, which at first sight often seemed not quite correct to me but which I have come to appreciate more and more. For example he usually gives the students way better grades than what they would have deserved, much to the concern of my colleagues. However, when I was discussing this with him one day, he said "You know Romy, people will become what you say they are." He treats everyone as if the person was something very special, his favourite word is "wonderful" and you cannot help but feel motivated to give your very best. I am incredibly thankful to him in so many ways.

Anyway, that was just to give you an idea of who he is so that I can put the thing I noticed into an appropriate context. While doing the examinations, I was finished with the students that I was testing earlier than he was with his, and now I needed his signature for them. I walked up to him and while I did that, I found myself doing something I had observed myself doing more often with him in the past: assuming a walking posture that you could call dominant, as if the only thing that's missing was me nodding my head at him and saying "Hey there, come over!", and I guess I was feeling like Pia does when she tosses her head while running towards me in play. I guess if any traditional horse person (or many non-horse people as well) had seen me, they might have concluded that I was rude and completely lacking respect. Now I have to admit that I do lack respect for ranks and status, but this is because all my respect is focused on personal attributes such as being warm and wise or giving your best, or being concerned about others. But with all these things being so central to his personality, I can say that he is one of the people I am respecting most of all. Very deeply, actually. So what was this about?

When looking inside myself, I realized that this "rude" behaviour for me actuallly felt like the total opposite, like a form of appreciation. Like something I would only do with people whom I trust and whom I adore, and in whose company I feel that I can be myself and flourish, and who are worth being totally open to. I would not act that way towards someone I am actually lacking respect for, because with such a person I would be walking on eggshells and behave in a tense and avoidant way. Perhaps that's just a weird thing about myself, but when realizing this I was immediately asking myself whether this might, at least in some cases, relate to horses. What if a lot of the behaviour people call rude actually is a positive sign? What if it does not only mean that they are comfortable in our company, but even that they consider us to be worthy of being open to? What if it does not only have no relation to respect for us but a positive one?

So far for my morning musings on a lovely cold Wednesday. I guess that's not really anything new for many people here at AND, but I just needed to write it down. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:48 pm 

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I think you have a point there. I just need to listen to my brother and his best friend when they're on the telephone- their calls usually last for 20 seconds and are made up mostly of insults. Needless to say, the two of them are as good as married.
Or the way my brother and I, and our parents interact- besides a lot of goofing around, there are also lots of "nice insults" that anyone not familiar with us would take very much amiss.
Or my colleagues (I hate that word, how do you write that? >-<) at work riling each other up. Or... well, you get the point. That's really something you can only do with persons who know that behind the banter there's a sort of respect, and who respect you in turn. Respect is what keeps it from going too far.

With animals, I think it's quite the same. With the one difference that their "banter" is necessarily of the physical sort, and the possibility of getting hurt is always there. So (mutual!) respect is what makes roughhousing fun and keeps it safe. I have to know just how far I can go and avoid pushing my horse, dog, cat... across their boundaries, because if I do, there might likely be a violent reaction. Either from being scared, or over-excited, or having enough. In turn, there are rules I want any animal I'm playing with to obey. I neither want a dog jumping right into my face and cutting my nose with its teeth (happened to me once), nor my horse kicking me while playing. Or, less dramatic, having dirty dog-paws on your clean clothes because of an enthusiastic greeting (depends on what clothes I'm wearing, but I'm not a fan of dogs jumping up at a person in general), or my horse using my body for a scratching post (I try to offer my fingers instead, so far Funky hasn't really gotten the hint..).

I can always tell a human that what they're doing is going too far, with an animal- not so much. So there are areas of "being lovingly disrespectful" that I'd rather not enter. Of course, that changes with time and getting to know each other better.
And does anything in this post even make sense? I'm not sure anymore o.ô

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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:28 pm 
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Makes a lot of sense to me. :smile: The only point where I guess I have a slightly different opinion is that it's less possible or harder to establish such boundaries with animals. I think that in many aspects of the coordination of human interactions, language is way overrated. The most important things happen nonverbally. That also seems to be the case for the boundaries - or at least for me it is. The cue that usually makes me realize that I have gone too far is not the other person verbally asking me to stop. For me it's that tiny look on their face which only lasts for a moment, that minimal freezing. Or sometimes it looks like a tiny glimpse of pain. This tells me that in the further course of our interaction, I have to be extra careful with what I say or do. Of course I could ignore it, just like a horse could ignore my signs of discomfort. But usually I don't, at least not if I have an interest in keeping up the good communication. It seems to me that my horses do the same. :smile:


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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 9:11 pm 

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Hm. Right again. I clean overlooked that point. Silly me... In my defense, I was rather tired when I wrote that *coughs*

I still maintain that, for safety's sake, I'd rather not let "nice rude" behaviour in an animal get to the same level as with humans (though I let them get much closer physically). A verbal slap can be just as painful as a hoof to the face, but it's still less likely to permanently injure you. When your signal of discomfort isn't noticed, or if it's ignored, say.

On the thoughts about motivation: I know that, too. Even if it's going to see Funky, sometimes I catch myself thinking, do I really want to get in the car now....? Once I'm there, I'm always glad I did get in the car. Intrinsic motivation seems to be a bit like a chemical reaction: It needs a little starting energy :D

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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:56 am 
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This is a late night post on analyzing and categorizing, or my relative lack of consciously doing that. I was reminded of it a lot recently, and also yesterday when my colleagues and I went to a meeting in an art gallery. During the break we were sitting in the foyer where there was a huge yellow thing. That thing was a flat artwork hanging down from the ceiling, with an outline that made it look a bit like a river, but actually not like anything at all. Anyway, when entering the foyer, I found myself looking at it for quite some time, following its edges with my eyes, and thinking that it was quite beautiful. Later my colleagues were talking about it and all had very meaningful ideas on what it could symbolize. This was when I realized that not only I had no clue, but also that the thought had not even come up in me that I could or should analyze it.

When thinking about this incident, I remembered several other situations in my life that had been quite similar, with others having had very fancy interpretations of something, be it art or interior design or literature or a person's behaviour, and me not even having tried to make such an explicit analysis. In the past I had sometimes felt a bit stupid because of this, as if everyone else was understanding the thing or situation properly and only I was not. Well, it's not that I am not thinking about the things I perceive. I do, quite a lot actually. But it feels like what I am doing is more like an unsystematic perceptual analysis, like the one you might do when looking into a kaleidoscope. It can be a quite detailed analysis, but it somehow does not exceed the stage of perception and rather makes me form a more general image of the object or situation instead of an explicit categorization, tidily packed in an intellectual description.

Then I wonder how that fits with me being a scientist, and what are the costs and benefits of a more analytic versus a see/feel approach to processing the information around you. And perhaps it's indeed that I am not smart and sophisticated enough, but it sure makes my life colorful, so that's okay. :smile:


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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:49 pm 
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Today when I read a post in another horse forum I had realized once again that there are so many different opinions about the handling with horses... And unfortunately most of these people see in their horse only an means to an end: riding. The horse shows his displeasure on a really clear way, the owner is stumped and the most persons who reacted to his post have only the same answer: more riding, more gymnastics, spring and so on. :ieks:

This gives me food for toughts and made me a bit sad: Why not going on a riding break? Why not f. e. doing groundwork or other funny and nice things instead of riding and lunging? Both of them would benefits therefrom for their relationship and incidentally the health from the horse. Really, sometimes I don't understand these horse world and I think by myself: Are these people blind to see, to feel and listen what their horses will tell them? Poor horses... :sad:


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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:22 pm 
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I think besides the fact that different people have different goals, it really is hard to (emotionally) understand the signals of the horse if you aren't used to it. Or that's what I remember from my own past. When I made my horses do something they did not want to, this was not because I wanted to do any harm to them or did not care about them or saw them just as a means for my own pleasure. Instead, the explicit knowledge that they did not want to do something just somehow did not translate into a feeling. It was more like a neutral information, a problem that needed to be solved.

Maybe you remember one of our last car drives to the pony when I told you about mirror neurons? There are certain brain areas that are active when you perform an action but also when you observe someone else perform that action. That is true for emotions as well and has been interpreted as a main basis for empathy: You literally feel what you observe in the other one. Anyway, there are studies showing that this automatic mirroring is far reduced across species compared to within, and especially for behaviours that are not part of your own behaviour repertoire. That means that it really is much harder to understand what a horse is feeling than to understand what another human is feeling, unless you are highly tuned to it.

But the good thing is that this can be learned. Just look at yourself: within such a short time now you have become so much more sensitive for the feelings of your horse. By now you simply cannot ignore anymore what he is telling you. And with time, I think more and more people will be interested in learning how to listen to their horses more closely. It's contagious. :smile:


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 Post subject: Re: Everyday thoughts
PostPosted: Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:16 pm 
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At the moment I am observing one of the most mundane things with my horses, and still I find it ever so fascinating. The situation is that I let them out into another pasture for half an hour in the mornings and evenings. Of course they are very fond of the grass, so when I have to take them back into the winter pasture, that's not exactly what they would choose to do all by themselves. I walk up to them, ask them to lift their head from the grass, and then we walk back in together. I either just walk next to them or lead them by holding their mane.

It happens every day, so they are learning that when I come to them after a certain time, it always means leaving the grass – which they'd rather not do. This year I have not used any "special reward" waiting for them in the paddock (just a few grains on the way, but that is less valuable than fresh grass). Therefore, there is no positive consequence of coming with me. Neither do I use pressure to make them come or threaten to chase them away if they don't. So the process of me leading them back in is about as neutral as it can get, and being inside is the worse option. Accordingly, I was expecting that over a few days their willingness to come with me would greatly diminish, and that perhaps they would even start running away from me in this situation.

However, the opposite has happened. Walking up to them still is as easy as it was in the beginning, and walking away from the delicious pasture together is getting easier: while leading them by their manes was no problem at any point, now they often move towards the gate all by themselves, or sometimes even trot there so that I can just let go of them and follow them while they go back in all by themselves.

The reason why I think it's mundane is that everyone knows about the power of habit. The things you do every day become so easy that you don't even have to think when doing them, and if you form an association between a certain stimulus (in that case: me walking up to them) and an action (walking back into the winter pasture), the mere sight of that stimulus automatically primes the representation of that action and thus facilitates or even triggers it. But I think it's so amazing that this seems to work even against a strong emotional factor (the effect of eating versus not eating the delicious grass). Therefore, I am wondering what positive emotional effects (in terms of the brain's reward system) it may have to perform a habitual action. I know that the anticipation or experience of difficult or conflicting actions can work as an aversive signal and trigger the corresponding brain processes, but I guess I will have to do some research on the emotional changes that go along with performing an action repeatedly so that it becomes a habit. :)

……………………………………

So I couldn't wait and have done some searching right now. Here is a little summary: The development of habits typically goes along with a reduced sensitivity for behavioural consequences (rewards) or their value. That is, once a behaviour has been trained extensively, it doesn't really matter anymore whether you are interested in the reward, you just do it. Applied to my pasture example, that would mean that once my horses got used to walking back in when I come, it doesn't matter that much anymore what effect this has for them (i.e. the lack of grass becomes less important). Now the question is why that happens.

One mechanism could be that during training, the link between the stimulus and the action (e.g. Romy comes and walking back in) is increased, resulting in a more direct and automatic control of actions by the environment, while at the same time the strength of the association between an action and its outcome (e.g. walking back in and grass) is diminished. Such a central role of the association strength between action and outcome would be in line with research showing that habits develop more readily when the correlation between a behaviour and its outcome is low.

Interestingly, that does not seem to be the case, though. Instead, it seems that not the strength of action-outcome associations but their influence on behaviour gets modulated, by an active suppression mechanism. That is, the associations stay intact but just cannot exert control over behaviour anymore. This inhibition of goal-directed responses allows habit-based behaviour to play a larger role in action control. However, it's not irreversible: Once that inhibition is removed (by temporally deactivating the brain structures responsible for it), the behaviour becomes goal-directed again, so that rewards and their quality regain their importance.


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