What to Do When Your Toddler Keeps Asking for Your Phone
Anya Kamenetz

*Psychologists know that intermittent reinforcement is by far the hardest kind of conditioning to extinguish.

Regular reinforcement works like this: If you give a pigeon a food pellet every time it presses a lever, it will become conditioned to press the lever. But once you stop providing the pellets, the rat quickly stops pressing the lever.

Intermittent reinforcement works like this: If you give the pigeon a pellet randomly, averaging, say, every 4 times they press the lever, you can take the pellets away forever and they’ll keep hitting the lever, trying their luck, ’til they literally die of exhaustion.