So we had the class demonstration of operant conditioning today. I think it went well. "Number 3" (the severely anxious rat) was a lot calmer than expected. He didn't even make a chirp or squeak. I was pleasantly surprised. Of course I have been handling him for about a week. I know that he has gotten used to me, I just didn't know what to expect with in a room of 30 psych. students. He did very well though. He's our 'middle' performing rat at the moment. Number 1 is our top performer and 2 is our slowest learner. As soon as you put 1 in a skinner box, he goes straight for the lever and will press it and keep pressing it until you take him out. 2 will just sit by the food tray and occasionally walk near the lever hoping to get a pellet. Then he gets tired and sleeps in the corner. 3 is somewhere in the middle. He is very good at pressing the lever, but you sometimes have to remind him that it's there. Sometimes he'll just clean himself in the corner, but if you press the reinforcement button and he hears that food pellet make a clink in the dish, he goes to work.
Next week the students will be assigned to their own rats, well actually 1 rat per two people. So students will be working with their rat in groups of two and for about two weeks everyday on their own time. They are supposed to keep record of their interactions in a journal, which they later hand in to me. At the end of the two weeks they bring in their rats and we have a sort of "Rat Parade." They just talk about working with the rat and show us what he/she can do. The students usually enjoy the experience, and I don't think this group will be any different . . .they seemed pretty excited about it today anyways.