Monday, July 11, 2016

Response Deprivation & Shackleton's Men

In reviewing and further researching the slides provided in this course, I couldn’t help but think of the men we are reading about in Endurance when I learned the definition of response deprivation theory.  Contrary to Premack’s principle where a person will perform a less desirable task to obtain the desired outcome; response deprivation is where the desired outcome will reinforce the behavior IF the subject is deprived of the desired behavior.  I think of part IV of Endurance.  During this time, the men are forced into their boats due to cracking and depleting floes.  Some see it as relief from the ice, but in their hurriedness to get into their boats, the men failed to remember ice to be melted into water.  They would go days without water, which added to the misery of small food rations, treacherous weather conditions, and the fact that their course was many times rescheduled.  The men were forced to chew raw seal meat just to drink the blood. 

Elephant Island was in sight and the men had no option but to give all they could to reach land.  Despite their lack of sleep and water, they rowed.  And rowed.  Hour after hour.  Even while realizing they were caught in a current, they continued on.  The desired outcome was land, where they could gain some rest and melt some snow into water.  Would they have been so determined to continue on throughout the night if they had water onboard with them and were able to rest during the past few days?  Maybe not.  They were deprived of two imperative necessities of life; rest and water.             


  1. Great thoughts, Lauri. I just read this part of the book and I agree--there is no way the men could have made themselves do so much on so little if there were any reprieve besides land. But land was the only shot they had at survival, so on and on and on they rowed!

  2. Thank you for emphasis on the extreme conditions because I for one am so amazed by what the men did to survive. The motivation to live is a very powerful force because who in their right mind would chew raw meat in order to drink blood for its water content. Everyday we complain about silly trivial things like how inconvenient it is to have to write discussion posts (lol!) and how there's always bills to pay but there are people who have had to reach the core of their existence to survive. When you sit down and give it some thought it puts life into perspective. Most of those men ventured out just for the excitement of the journey not for money and glory but they got way more than they bargained for. Really makes me question my own ability to push myself. Your post really got me thinking so thank you!

  3. Very interesting analysis you came up with from the slides and book. To answer your hypothetical question, I believe that they would travel less quickly due to the fact that one of the main necessities of life was being fulfilled if they did have water onboard. They may have been deprived of rest, but most of the journey they were deprived of rest. Rest may also not be considered a physiological need for some individuals. This thought makes me think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If the men had water, they would be fulfilling the bottom tier of Maslow’s Pyramid, allowing them to take a slower pace to Elephant Island. However, in order for the men to survive they needed to find a way to fulfill their physiological needs first, which made them continue on throughout the night. Your comment made me think about everyday situations and response deprivation. For example, if you see someone shoplifting food in a grocery store, you may immediately think they are terrible people. However, what if the desired outcome, which would be food, is reinforcing the behavior, stealing, because they are being deprived of food which is an imperative necessity of life? Would they continue to steal if they had enough money to purchase the food themselves? Maybe, maybe not. That’s my hypothetical question. Very good post which really made me think about their travel, response deprivation, and real world examples.

  4. I think if the men had water on board they would have been more motivated to get to land. Water would have put the crew in better spirits, and replenished one of their necessities for life. If they had water they would presumably be more energized to row and find land, were they could rest and hopefully find civilization.

    To be honest I haven't read this far in the book, but, I know the men had been suffering through some very intense conditions. They were probably hungry, angry at their circumstances, cold, and fatigued. I'm sure there were more benefits to finding land then just water and rest. I would like to find out if having one goal to strive for (finding land) or striving for multiple goals (water, rest, food, warmth) would drive the men to succeed. Does having multiple goals drive someone more than having one singular goal?

    I'm just explaining the another side I guess haha. Great Post!