A study of functional equivalence in rats using class-specific reinforcers and olfactory stimuli

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Rebecca M. Rayburn-Reeves (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site: http://library.uncw.edu/
Mark Galizio

Abstract: Functional equivalence has been demonstrated in some non-human animals using a repeated reversal simple discrimination procedure. The current study addressed the issue of stimulus equivalence in rats using a repeated reversals procedure with class-specific reinforcers and olfactory stimuli. Four Holtzman Sprague-Dawley rats were tested to establish functional classes using scented sand as olfactory stimuli in a two-choice modified operant chamber and an odor arena. Stimuli were randomly assigned to one of two sets, and at any given point, one set was designated as positive and one was negative. Responses to the positive set were reinforced until criterion levels of performance at 90% or higher for two consecutive sessions were reached, at which point the contingencies were reversed. Reversals continued throughout multiple testing phases as criterion was reached. The results of the study showed that one subject demonstrated clear evidence of functional classes. That is, after encountering a few reversed stimuli on the first day of a given reversal, correct responses were made to the remainder of the stimuli within that class without explicit reinforcement. However, evidence for functional classes was much less clear for the other subjects in the study. The variables that allowed for one subject to provide evidence and not the others remains unclear and further research using rats and olfactory stimuli needs to be done to assess the differences in outcomes seen in the present study.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Masters of Science
Language: English
Date: 2009
Rats -- Research

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