Slide 1-17

The system of interest involves behavior, reinforcers, and stimuli. Research requires an apt preparation to study these elements: one that is both simple and coherent, and which reveals the fundamental laws of interest. In essence, we have an "equation" in four unknowns that we must solve for a minimum. Using whales as a subject to understand the fundamental properties of behavior would be wastefully expensive in Kansas. You don't need a golden hammer to drive a nail. You don't need a human subject to discover that cyanide is a poison.

Slide 1-18

The preparation which is optimized to study these phenomena is a pigeon pecking a small disk which is illuminated with colored lights, and the behavior is reinforced with food.

A pigeon is used as a source of behavior, because it is a biologically well-understood animal, is essentially a pest in nature, is inexpensive, is easy to maintain, has acute color vision, has a behavior which is easy to transduce and is easily reinforced with an inexpensive food. Colored lights are used as stimuli because they are the easiest stimuli to control. Key pecks are used as behavioral output for approximately the same reason; key pecks are very easy to record. Food is used as the reinforcer because it is the least invasive, easiest to control, and least expensive.

Pigeon Pecking Key


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Date Last Reviewed : May 26, 2003