Concept: B. F. Skinner
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 . 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.
This article introduces the ArduiPod Box, an open-source device built using two main components (i.e., an iPod Touch and an Arduino microcontroller), developed as a low-cost alternative to the standard operant conditioning chamber, or “Skinner box.” Because of its affordability, the ArduiPod Box provides an opportunity for educational institutions with small budgets seeking to set up animal laboratories for research and instructional purposes. A pilot experiment is also presented, which shows that the ArduiPod Box, in spite of its extraordinary simplicity, can be effectively used to study animal learning and behavior.
Thorndike’s law of effect states that actions that lead to reinforcements tend to be repeated more often. Accordingly, neural activity patterns leading to reinforcement are also reentered more frequently. Reinforcement relies on dopaminergic activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), and animals shape their behavior to receive dopaminergic stimulation. Seeking evidence for a neural law of effect, we found that mice learn to reenter more frequently motor cortical activity patterns that trigger optogenetic VTA self-stimulation. Learning was accompanied by gradual shaping of these patterns, with participating neurons progressively increasing and aligning their covariance to that of the target pattern. Motor cortex patterns that lead to phasic dopaminergic VTA activity are progressively reinforced and shaped, suggesting a mechanism by which animals select and shape actions to reliably achieve reinforcement.
Reliable and reproducible assessment of animal learning and behavior is a central aim of basic and translational neuroscience research. Recent developments in automated operant chamber technology have led to the possibility of universal standard protocols, in addition to increased translational potential, reliability and accuracy. However, the impact of regional and national differences in the supplies of available reinforcers in this system on behavioural performance and inter-laboratory variability is an unknown and at present uncontrolled variable. Therefore, we aimed to identify which constituent(s) of the reward determines reinforcer strength to enable improved standardization of this parameter across laboratories. Male C57BL/6 mice were examined in the touchscreen-based fixed ratio (FR) and progressive ratio (PR) schedules, reinforced with different kinds of milk-based reinforcers to directly compare the incentive values of plain milk (PM, high-calorie: high-fat/low-sugar), strawberry-flavored milk (SM, high-calorie: low-fat/high-sugar), and semi-skimmed low-fat milk (LM, low-calorie: low-fat/low-sugar) on the basis of differences in caloric content, sugar/fat content, and flavor. Use of a higher caloric content reward was effective in increasing operant training acquisition rate. Total trial number completed in FR and breakpoint in PR were higher using the two isocaloric milk products (PM and SM) than the lower caloric LM, with comparable outcomes between PM and SM conditions, suggesting that total caloric content determines reward strength. Analysis of within-session changes in response rate revealed that overall outputs in FR and PR primarily depend on the response rate at the initial phase of a session, which itself was dependent on reinforcer caloric content. Interestingly, the rate of satiation, indicated by decay in response rate within a FR session, was highest when reinforced with SM, suggesting a rapid satiating effect of sugar. The key contribution of reward caloric content to operant performance was confirmed in a multi-laboratory study using the touchscreen 5-choice serial reaction time task (5-CSRTT) reinforced by two isocaloric milk-based liquid rewards with different countries of origin, which yielded consistent performance parameters across sites. Our results indicate that milk-based liquid reinforcer standardization can be facilitated by matching caloric content across laboratories despite regional or national differences in other non-caloric aspects of the reinforcers.
The question whether talking to yourself is thinking is considered from two viewpoints: radical behaviorism and teleological behaviorism. For radical behaviorism, following Skinner (1945), mental events such as ‘thinking’ may be explained in terms of private behavior occurring within the body, ordinarily unobservable by other people; thus, radical behaviorism may identify talking to yourself with thinking. However, to be consistent with its basic principles, radical behaviorism must hold that private behavior, hence thinking, is identical with covert muscular, speech movements (rather than proprioception of those movements). For teleological behaviorism, following Skinner (1938), all mental terms, including ‘thinking,’ stand for abstract, temporally extended patterns of overt behavior. Thus, for teleological behaviorism, talking to yourself, covert by definition, cannot be thinking.
- Journal of experimental psychology. Animal learning and cognition
- Published over 3 years ago
Reports an error in “Familiarity-based stimulus generalization of conditioned suppression” by Jasper Robinson, Emma J. Whitt and Peter M. Jones (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 2017[Apr], Vol 43, 159-170). (The following abstract of the original article appeared in record 2017-15338-002.) We report that stimulus novelty/familiarity is able to modulate stimulus generalization and discuss the theoretical implications of novelty/familiarity coding. Rats in Skinner boxes received clicker → shock pairings before generalization testing to a tone. Before clicker training, different groups of rats received preexposure treatments designed to systematically modulate the clicker and the tone’s novelty and familiarity. Rats whose preexposure matched novelty/familiarity (i.e., either both or neither clicker and tone were preexposed) showed enhanced suppression to the tone relative to rats whose preexposure mixed novelty/familiarity (i.e., only clicker or tone was preexposed). This was not the result of sensory preconditioning to clicker and tone. (PsycINFO Database Record
- Journal of experimental psychology. Animal learning and cognition
- Published almost 4 years ago
We report that stimulus novelty/familiarity is able to modulate stimulus generalization and discuss the theoretical implications of novelty/familiarity coding. Rats in Skinner boxes received clicker → shock pairings before generalization testing to a tone. Before clicker training, different groups of rats received preexposure treatments designed to systematically modulate the clicker and the tone’s novelty and familiarity. Rats whose preexposure matched novelty/familiarity (i.e., either both or neither clicker and tone were preexposed) showed enhanced suppression to the tone relative to rats whose preexposure mixed novelty/familiarity (i.e., only clicker or tone was preexposed). This was not the result of sensory preconditioning to clicker and tone. (PsycINFO Database Record
Psychologist B. F. Skinner developed and promoted a technology of behavior as the basis for widespread social reform over much of his career. In 1948, he published his behaviorally engineered vision of the good life in his utopian novel Walden Two (Skinner, 1948). Skinner’s efforts were part of a much larger social engineering tradition that received one of its fullest expressions in the Technocracy Movement of the 1930s. Fifteen years before Skinner’s Walden Two, at the height of the Technocracy Movement’s public visibility in the United States, technocrat Harold Loeb (1933/1996) published his utopia, Life in a Technocracy: What It Might Be Like. In this article, I place the socially engineered visions of the good life promoted by the Technocracy Movement and by Skinner on an intellectual and ideological continuum to amplify and explore American attitudes toward psychology, technology, and social engineering during the middle decades of the 20th century. I argue that responses to both reveal the possibilities and limits of the social engineering enterprise, and suggest that historians of technology might consider how the history of psychology and other psy-disciplines can deepen conceptualizations of the relationships among the psychological, the social, and the technological in this period. (PsycINFO Database Record
This paper examines similarities in the works of Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher, and B. F. Skinner, a behavioral psychologist. They both were empiricists who argued in favor of the lawfulness of behavior while maintaining that random events were included within those laws. They both devoted much effort to describing how individuals could live effective, rewarding and pleasurable lives. They both emphasized simple and natural pleasures (or reinforcers) and the importance of combining personal pleasures with actions that benefit friends and community. They both opposed punishment and all aversive measures used by governments and religions to control behaviors. And both created utopias: a real community, The Garden, where Epicurus lived with his followers, and a fictional one, Walden Two, by Skinner. We consider how a combination of the ideas of Epicurus and Skinner can contribute to their common goal of helping people to live better lives.
The strengthening view of reinforcement attributes behavior change to changes in the response strength or the value of the reinforcer. In contrast, the shaping view explains behavior change as shaping different response units through differential reinforcement. In this paper, we evaluate how well these two views explain: (1) the response-rate difference between Variable-Ratio and Variable-Interval schedules that provide the same reinforcement rate; and (2) the phenomenon of matching in choice. The copyist model (Tanno & Silberberg, 2012)-a shaping-view account-can provided accurate predictions of these phenomena without a strengthening mechanism; however, the model has limitations. It cannot explain the relation between behavior change and stimulus control, reinforcer amount, and reinforcer quality. These relations seem easily explained by a strengthening view. Future work should be directed at a model which combine the strengths of these two types of accounts.