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Rat Basketball Reflection

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By beccajane
Words 1581
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The Rat Basketball assignment implemented some of the most established theories of learning, including classical and operant conditioning, into a semester-long project where we trained a lab rat to play basketball. Conditioning involves behavior modification, where the subject (rat) learns to act or respond in a certain way, demonstrating an association with a previously unrelated stimulus. Applying our knowledge of conditioning along with trial and error, my partner and I successfully trained our rat to play basketball. However, the experience wasn’t a walk in the park and required a substantial amount of hard work, patience, and even luck. Rat basketball training involved a series of small steps known as shaping, which consisted of six different levels that ultimately led to our rat mastering the complex and unnatural behavior of dunking a ball into a hoop. The first stage of training was Habituation. In regards to learning and memory, habituation involves a decrease in the strength of a behavior. In other words, the goal of this stage was to have the rat habituate to us as handlers and become acquainted (i.e. decrease freezing or anxious behavior from the rat). My partner and I received our rat, Ratpunzel, and spent a few days familiarizing with her. We didn’t linger on this stage for too long, but we mostly just handled her and allowed her to run around the basketball court. She was fidgety and went to the bathroom frequently at first but as she habituated to us she showed more signs of comfort. We also began food restriction of Ratpunzel in this stage. The purpose of food restriction was to ensure that she was motivated for training, which hinged on food pellets as reinforcement. Without a motivated and slightly hungry rat, the process would be tedious and unsuccessful for both the rat and trainer. We moved briskly onto the next phase of...

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