Rat Lab

As part of my Psychology major, I have to take two Psychology classes with laboratory components. This semester, I am taking Learning and Behavior which has a laboratory component where we train rats in an operant chamber.

The class is divided into pairs, and each pair has its own rat. At the beginning of the semester, we began by habituating our rat to the human experimenters and the operant chamber (getting the rat used to being touched and transported by humans and of being in a new sort of cage). We then trained our rats to know that a certain sound signaled that water would be available in their water dish. Eventually, they learned to press the right lever to receive water. From there, we experimented with different schedules of reinforcement (so, rather than getting a drop of water for every single time they press the right lever, they might have to press the lever four times in order to receive reinforcement (the drop of water)). We also taught them to press the left lever, and to only press the lever when the light in the operant chamber was on. Luckily, we never used punishment in our chambers -- no electrical shocks were given.

It was an interesting, and really time-consuming, experience to teach a living organism using the principles of learning and behavior that we talked about during the lecture portion of the class.

You can read more about Luther's use of animals for research here.

My rat, Phoebe, in the operant chamber
Michelle, Phoebe, and I

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