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Rats and Touchscreens: The Skinner-Box Goes High Tech Mark S. Schmidt, Dept.of Psychology and Sociology Columbus State University

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rats and touchscreens the skinner box goes high tech

Rats and Touchscreens: The Skinner-Box Goes High Tech

Mark S. Schmidt,

Dept.of Psychology and Sociology

Columbus State University

Schmidt, M.S. (2000, February). Rats and touch-screens: The Skinner-box goes high-tech. Paper presented at a meeting of the Columbus Area Psychological Association, Columbus, GA.

touchscreens
Touchscreens
  • Restaurants
  • Information Kiosks
  • Cash registers
  • Games
  • Others?
research with humans
Research with Humans
  • Cognitive Psychology Research
    • Adults, Children and Infants, Older adults
    • Large variety of visual stimuli
      • Graphics, photos, video clips,

scanned images, anything that can be saved

as an image file.

    • Accuracy and RT measurements
research with humans4
Research with Humans
  • Spatial contiguity between stimulus and response
    • Subject does not have to remember which key goes with which stimulus.
  • Older adults and children can respond to a large image on the screen rather than to a small key on a keyboard.
research with humans5
Research with Humans
  • Spatial contiguity between response and reinforcement with infants.
    • Cartoons, funny faces, animals, etc. can be presented on the screen at the place the child touches.
  • Responses can be recorded with near millisecond precision (like keyboards)
research with animals
Research with Animals
  • In the “old days” research with primates was done with a manually operated test apparatus.
    • Ex) The WGTA used by Harry Harlow at the University of Wisconsin
slide8
WGTA
  • Experimenter had to position stimuli and record responses manually on each trial.
  • Had to avoid the “Clever Hans effect”
    • Mirrors often used to see monkeys responses
  • Much time and effort required to run a study.
research with pigeons and rats
Research with Pigeons and Rats
  • Research with pigeons and rats was done primarily with the “Skinnerbox” invented by B.F. Skinner
  • Variety of visual stimuli was very limited.
    • Colored lights, simple geometrical shapes on pecking keys, etc.
    • With rats, responses were “lever presses” which were not contiguous with stimuli.
research with rats
Research with Rats
  • Studies that needed more complex visual stimuli used manually operated apparatus (like WGTA).
    • Ex) Karl Lashley’s “Jumping Stand”
touchscreens with animals
Touchscreens with Animals
  • Touchscreens began to be used in the 1980’s with pigeons and primates
  • Infra-red technology
    • First and most common technology used.
    • Computer screen is fitted with a device that directs beams of infrared light across the front of the screen.
slide12
When the animal touches an image on the screen, their finger (or beak) breaks the IR beams.
  • Computer calculates location of the break and converts it into X-Y coordinates
capacitive technology
Capacitive Technology
  • Capacitive technology
    • First used with primates
    • The screen itself is sensitive to touch.
    • A small electrical current drains off into the finger when the screen is touched.
    • Computer calculates the location of the current drain and converts into X-Y coordinates
capacitive touchscreens
Capacitive Touchscreens
  • Examples of uses with primates:
    • Orangutans at the National Zoo
    • Squirrel monkeys at UGA
      • Matching to sample task
capacitive touchscreens15
Capacitive TouchScreens
  • Can’t be used with pigeons because a beak does not conduct electricity very well.
  • Could it be used with rats?
    • Rats’ paws and noses should conduct electricity OK.
    • Could rats be trained to touch images on a computer screen? Yes.
rats and touchscreens
Rats and Touchscreens
  • Rats can be easily shaped to touch the screen for reinforcement (45 mg food pellets.
  • They are then trained to go to the back of the test box and “nose-poke” to initiate each trial.
    • Nose-poking is a species-typical behavior in rats (easily trained).
    • Insures that the rat is at the back of the box and far from the screen at the start of each trial.
uses with rats
Uses with Rats
  • Visual discrimination learning
  • Matching to sample (MTS)
    • Taps into interference in memory
  • Delayed matching to sample (DMTS)
    • Taps into working memory functions
  • Spatial Learning
    • Taps into spatial memory
uses with mice
Uses with Mice?
  • Touch screens have not been used with mice (as far as I know).
  • Transgenic mice models are being developed for several behavioral disorders.
    • Ex) Alzheimer’s Disease - Mouse has been developed that has both amyloid plaques in the brain and spatial memory deficits.
  • Behavior geneticists do not have the background to conduct appropriate behavioral tests.
    • Are in need of proper behavioral protocols including learning and memory tests (APA Monitor, current issue)
    • Touch screens might be useful