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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.

  • 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
  • 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.
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