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Specific to the life of a teenager, examples of fixed-interval scheduling could probably involve regularly scheduled quizzes or tests in school. With fixed-interval scheduling, there is generally a set period of time between anticipated events, which results in a form of psychological conditioning characterized by increases in the rate of activity associated with those scheduled events. In the case of high school students, there is a tendency among many to procrastinate in preparing for, say, Friday tests. The students know the test will occur on schedule every Friday, so will delay preparing for those tests until as late in the week as possible. The test occurs, and the students relax, secure in the knowledge that the stressful exercise is behind them, and remain psychologically reluctant to acknowledge that another test is scheduled for the following week. As the following week evolves, the students become increasingly motivated to prepare to be tested.
With respect to variable-interval schedules, there is an absence of certainty – and mental comfort – with respect to the next stressful event. The concept of the “pop quiz” constitutes a variable-interval schedule in which the certainty of the quiz or test exists, but uncertainty regarding its precise timing remains. Common sense might suggest a constant effort at remaining prepared, but, emotionally, the tendency to relax and neglect preparedness remains present.
Another set of examples for fixed- and variable-interval schedules specific to teenagers could involve the role of electronic communications in their daily lives. Most teenagers are mentally attached to their cell phones/stored music players. If they know that every day at 4:00 they will receive a message from their parents, they mentally prepare for that event, relaxing in the hour or so leading up that time, and then becoming more disciplined in their demeanor with the certainty of a communication with the main authority figures in their lives. If the parents are in a habit of communicating any random time after school lets out, the students are more on edge and less emotionally certain. That communication regarding the teenager whereabouts and nature of his or her activities could come at any time, and served to keep the teenager on-edge. Positive reinforcement comes from being in the right place and the right time, which can prove stressful for more rebellious teens, but comforting for others.
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