Pavlov’s Blog

The intersection of information, media, and culture is both an area of research and fascinating to me (as well as deeply depressing these days). The way weather is (mis)reported is a microcosm of this process. Take this morning (Wed. 20 Sept). I looked at the forecasts and data, and nothing changed really since yesterday: Nigel is still on course, the thing off of the Southeastern US still isn’t a thing and is more likely to be sub or extra tropical if it does and not a threat, and the wave coming off of Africa hasn’t (as of 7am) even been assigned a temporary ID yet; if anything forms it is likely to be of concern only to fish and people who hang out with them far offshore. NHC’s advice didn’t change. In Savannah, it’s a really pretty day for a morning walk before getting to work …

Of course when I got back there were texts, emails, even a phone message asking when the next post is coming, what about the thing developing off the coast, etc. Apparently a certain weather channel couldn’t resist the headline “‘Subtropical’ Or Not, It Will Bring Impacts To The East” – which is technically true if you mean “it might rain and the wind will blow a little”, but if you mean “impacts” as in “something to be concerned about” then that’s BS.

During the hurricane season, we seem to be seeing be a case of classical temporal conditioning (link to Wikipedia). People are being conditioned by the media (both legacy and social) to regularly check and receive updates – with the implication being content must be continuously generated and updated. Something more than a few hours old (much less a day!) is considered obsolete and suspect. For commercial reasons, the time frame has become more and more compressed to the point where if not being continuously fed a stream of stimulus some people start to panic. I think that’s a problem. Most of the time, things just don’t change that fast, especially with respect to hurricanes. That, with click-bait inflammatory headlines like those on that weather channel, and now that other weather channel (who also had a bogus headline), well, it’s a toxic brew.

The most famous research in to conditioned responses are of course Ivan Pavlov’s experiments on dogs. Although we’ve had dogs (and no doubt will again) and I love them, I’m more of a cat person. The research seems to indicate that cats domesticated humans, or “self domesticated” in some studies, rather than the other way around. And as far as conditioned responses, having spent several decades under the iron paw of feline oppression, I can say with some authority that we are conditioned to respond to them rather than the other way around …

Tomas knows who’s in charge.

What does that have to do with hurricanes? Learn from our feline overlords. Yes, there are times to run frantically around in a blur of motion bouncing off the walls, but most of the time be chill and let somebody else do the work.


  1. Nice work at local TV station, and every time they would be some sort of weather coming up the News manager would go to the meteorologist and have a talk. These talk to her much like a prosecutor asking leading questions well, if it rains hard enough quit the streets flood? The meteorologist would just come back with well yes, if the conditions were right, like high tide or enough rain.. after a few more of these leading questions, suddenly would be a weather alert day with a meteorologist, forecasting, doom and gloom, for all of that tuned in. The news Director also encourages photog’s to go out and videotape streets that were flooded trees that were down Cetra in order to prove that we never lie. We’re always tell you the truth we’re on your side kind of BS.

  2. You’re seriously the best doing this, thank you so much from a fellow Savannahian.

  3. I’m all in 110% in letting someone else do the the work since I am officially retired at 71 and honestly no body else really likes to work at all like they did in the old days ! I love hurricanes ! Mahalo !

  4. Your overlord looks very chill. And I’m happy NOT to get a million “updates” a day. Thanks for all you do so entertainingly (if that’s a word).

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