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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Symposium #420
Experimental Analysis of Invertebrate Behavior
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Zurich FG, Swissotel
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Chris Varnon (Oklahoma State University)

Although the experimental analysis of behavior often seeks to generalize the principles of behavior to a diverse range of species, invertebrate research is still relatively uncommon. This is unfortunate as invertebrates are good candidates for many experimental paradigms and invertebrates are more practical subjects in terms of cost and maintenance than many traditional vertebrate subjects. This symposium will discuss several experiments in behavior analysis using invertebrates as subjects. The first will discuss the ability of honey bees to use social stimuli in an aversive conditioning paradigm, the second will discuss a chaining task in honey bees that is analogous to some vertebrate problem solving tasks, and the third will discuss an olfactory sign-tracking experiment in hissing cockroaches. The presentations will relate the findings to the behavioral ecology of the subject species, and compare and contrast the trends in invertebrate behavior analysis with what is commonly observed in traditional vertebrate subjects.

Keyword(s): comparative psychology, insect, Invertebrate
Social Discriminative Stimuli in Aversive Conditioning in Honey Bees
CHRIS VARNON (Oklahoma State University), Christopher Dinges (Oklahoma State University), Charles I. Abramson (Oklahoma State University)
Abstract: In this experiment, 355 honey bees (Apis mellifera) were divided into 18 groups to assess if bees were able to use a hive mate or a Polistes exclamans paper wasp as a discriminative stimulus in an aversive conditioning paradigm. Subject bees were shocked if they entered one side of a shuttle box. A hive mate or a paper wasp placed in a chamber at one end of the shuttle box acted as a discriminative stimulus. Subjects were shocked either when they entered the half of the shuttle box with the discriminative stimulus, or when they entered the opposite half of the shuttle box as the discriminative stimulus, depending on group. Traditional spatial discrimination groups, where no discriminative stimulus was used, and color discrimination groups, where a blue or yellow color acted as a discriminative stimulus were also included. General findings indicate that bees did not perform much better when a hive mate or paper wasp acted as discriminative stimulus as they did in spatial discrimination conditions, even when a hive mate or paper wasp should provide more information about the contingency than a pure spatial discrimination task. This may suggest that honey bees have difficulty responding to multiple simultaneous stimuli, or that honey bees have difficulty using hive mates and paper wasps as discriminative stimuli in this type of aversive conditioning paradigm.

Operant Conditioning in Honey Bees (Apis mellifera): The Cap Pushing Response

CHRISTOPHER DINGES (Oklahoma State University), Charles I. Abramson (Oklahoma State University)

Honey bees were trained to perform a cap pushing task developed by Abramson, Dinges, & Wells (manuscript in preparation). The bees were trained to gather sucrose from a food dish. Following multiple independent visits, the bees were shaped to press a cap to gain access to the reward. Nave bees were unable to perform the task without shaping. Following training and acquisition of steady state responding, a physically distinct cap was introduced to cover the sucrose well and the previously trained cap was moved to the side to present the bee with a discrimination task. Honey bees returned to and pushed the previously trained cap even in the absence of food reward. Error rates rapidly reduced over consecutive trials. A second introduction of a new cap resulted in recovery of erroneous responding that quickly disappeared over consecutive trials. Introduction of multiple caps resulted in pushing of previously trained caps only. These results indicate that bees can be trained to perform arbitrary tasks to access food reward; in this case, the cap pressing response and food reward are associated. Behavior that can be interpreted as problem solving or insightful are the result of prior experience as bees absent training do not perform the cap pushing response. More complex cognitive faculties that direct insightful behavior, such as object permanence or an understanding of the physical and mechanical nature of objects, are absent.


Sign-Tracking and Goal-Tracking in the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

ELIZABETH HARRI-DENNIS (St. Cloud State University), Benjamin N. Witts (St. Cloud State University)

Sign-tracking is the response we sometimes see when repeated presentations of a signal stimulus indicate the availability of a preferred stimulus. The organism then learns the association so well that it responds to the signal stimulus, even if it jeopardizes the organisms ability to obtain a preferred stimulus. Hearst and Jenkins (1974) identified several variables that influence sign-tracking. Principally, sign-tracking has been shown with environmental arrangements that include a correlation between the presentation of signal stimulus and the availability of a preferred stimulus, a localizable signal stimulus that does not create additional cues, and a dependent measure of an approach response towards the signal stimulus (Hearst & Jenkins, 1974). However, the majority of these studies were performed with rats and pigeons (Hears & Jenkins, 1974). This study investigates the relevant arrangements with the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (MHC) in a cross-species replication. Determining stimulus saliency and preference in the MHC are the key elements of this investigation. Pilot investigations have shown associative learning in the MHC with scent as the conditioned stimulus. Sign-tracking will be demonstrated by stability criteria, and persistence in responding to the signal stimulus when the spatial distance of the signal stimulus from the preferred stimulus is increased in successive trials.




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