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T Stafford, M Thirkettle, T Walton, N Vautrelle, L Hetherington, M Port, K Gurney and P Redgrave
Abstract
We present a behavioural task designed for the investigation of how novel instrumental actions are discovered and learnt. The task consists of free movement with a manipulandum, during which the full range of possible movements can be explored by the participant and recorded. A subset of these movements, the ‘target’, is set to trigger a reinforcing signal. The task is to discover what movements of the manipulandum evoke the reinforcement signal. Targets can be defined in spatial, temporal, or kinematic terms, can be a combination of these aspects, or can represent the concatenation of actions into a larger gesture. The task allows the study of how the specific elements of behaviour which cause the reinforcing signal are identified, refined and stored by the participant. The task provides a paradigm where the exploratory motive drives learning and as such we view it as in the tradition of Thorndike [1]. Most importantly it allows for repeated measures, since when a novel action is acquired the criterion for triggering reinforcement can be changed requiring a new action to be discovered. Here, we present data using both humans and rats as subjects, showing that our task is easily scalable in difficulty, adaptable across species, and produces a rich set of behavioural measures offering new and valuable insight into the action learning process.
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Concepts
Knowledge, Study skills, Intelligence, Classical mechanics, Behaviorism, B. F. Skinner, Psychology, Learning
MeSH headings
Animals, Behavior, Humans, Learning, Movement, Photic Stimulation, Rats, Reinforcement (Psychology), Reproducibility of Results, Task Performance and Analysis
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