Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Paper Session #209
Observation and Foraging
Sunday, May 30, 2010
1:30 PM–2:20 PM
Lone Star Ballroom Salon C (Grand Hyatt)
Area: EAB
Chair: Michael B. Ehlert (University of Guam)
Do Dwarf Hamsters (Phodopus campbelli) Learn by Observation?
Domain: Experimental Analysis
Uzma Manzoor (University of Alaska Anchorage), GWEN LUPFER-JOHNSON (University of Alaska Anchorage), Eric S. Murphy (University of Alaska Anchorage)
Abstract: The current study was conducted to investigate whether juvenile dwarf hamsters (Phodopus campbelli) can learn to lever-press for food reinforcers by observing a trained demonstrator. Juvenile dwarf hamsters were divided into 5 groups: Observational Learning, Observational Learning without Scrounging, Local Enhancement, Social Facilitation, or Control. Hamsters assigned to the Observational Learning group were exposed to lever-pressing behavior performed by their demonstrator. Hamsters assigned to the Observational Learning without Scrounging group were treated similarly, except that a wire partition prevented them from consuming pellets earned by the father. Hamsters assigned to the Local Enhancement group did not observe a lever-pressing demonstrator, but were provided with a cue (i.e., feces from a parent) applied to the essential areas of the operant chamber (i.e., the active lever and the food tray). Hamsters assigned to the Social Facilitation group were placed in the operant chamber with an untrained father. Finally, hamsters assigned to the Control group were placed in the operant chambers alone. After 20 days of training, subjects in all conditions had acquired the target behavior, but learning occurred significantly faster in the Social Facilitation group. Based on these results, dwarf hamsters have the ability to learn socially, but not by observation.
The Brown Treesnake, Boiga Irregularis, as a Laboratory Model of Snake Foraging
Domain: Experimental Analysis
MICHAEL B. EHLERT (University of Guam), James Duenas (University of Guam), Jesse Guerrero (University of Guam)
Abstract: The foraging success of the brown treesnake (BTS), Boiga irregularis, on Guam is well documented. It has led to the near elimination of all native avifauna. Understanding how BTS forage seems key to their control and containment. No systematic studies of BTS foraging exist. Snakes in general are underrepresented in the foraging literature because of their infrequent foraging bouts and usual avoidance of carrion. The successful development of a BTS foraging protocol would facilitate the control of an invasive pest species and also could expand the operant and foraging literature to an underrepresented species. We report the development of a laboratory procedure to observe BTS while they forage. Eight hand-captured snakes served on this project for approximately eight months. A small room was converted into a foraging chamber with a perch positioned equidistance from four prey stations. Natural rope radiated from the perch to the stations. Infrared cameras mounted on one wall recorded activity throughout the foraging session. Once per week, individual snakes were placed on the perch. Snakes exited the home cage freely and roamed the foraging space throughout the session. Each prey station was baited with small pieces of frozen chicken meat or gecko. All snakes learned the task. Seven snakes consumed more than 75 percent of prey items offered. Five snakes slightly preferred the lower prey stations. One snake, a juvenile, rejected all chicken carrion for 15 weeks but accepted gecko carrion when given a choice. Analyses of foraging patterns, nesting habits, and latency measures are reported. The feasibility of extending the appetitive operant literature will be considered.



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