I imagine it playing out something like this:
I turn on the computer. I click on the web browser. Nothing shows.
There must be something wrong. Let me try again!
I click on the web browser. Still nothing shows.
Click. Still nothing.
Oh come on! Maybe if I shut my computer down and try again it will work?
I restart the computer. I click my web browser. There is no internet.
I give up.
Humans are a persistent bunch. When we don’t get what we have come to expect for our behaviours, we repeat these actions for a brief period of time (behaviour rate increases). We then learn that the behaviour is no longer working and eventually the behaviour decreases. This is another example of what we call an extinction burst.
There is also this funny thing called spontaneous recovery where behaviour that was once extinguished reappears, cued by something in the environment. A few hours later and upon seeing their computer, users may try to access the internet again by clicking on the web browser.
Maybe now it will work?
Spontaneous recovery is typically brief if the behaviour fails to meet up with the reinforcer (in this case, a working web page). It’s like one last try, “Just in case!”. If the behaviour fails again, the learner typically gives up sooner. A few of these spontaneous recover blips could occur over the span of today among the affected internet users. Given the long history of internet use however, this behaviour may take a while to completely extinguish and repeated tries are likely. I’m sure the internet will be back up and reinforcing before that happens.