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.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #225
CE Offered: BACB
Operant Conditioning of a "Living Fossil" - Lake Sturgeons (Acipenser fulvescens)
Sunday, May 30, 2021
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Joseph J. Pear (University of Manitoba)
CE Instructor: Joseph J. Pear, Ph.D.

This symposium involves three presentations. All three presentations involve different aspects of the operant conditioning of lake sturgeons (Acipenser fulvescens) – a species whose operant behavior has not been studied. It is important to study the operant conditioning of this species for several reasons. Most importantly, this species evolved around 200 – 250 million years ago and has changed morphologically so little in the time it has existed that it has been it has been called a “living fossil”. Thus, studying the operant conditioning of this species could contribute to our knowledge of the evolution of operant conditioning. Also important is the fact that this species is considered threatened so that studying its operant conditioning could help develop procedures that promote its survival. The first presentation in this symposium demonstrates that food can be used as reinforcement to operantly condition lake sturgeons to swim to a particular location in an aquarium. The second presentation demonstrates that darkness can be used as a reinforcer to condition lake sturgeons to swim to a particular location in an aquarium, and also to maintain the learned behavior on fixed-ratio schedules. The third presentation examines the effects of varying amount of light reduction as reinforcement for this species.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Darkness Reinforcement, Food Reinforcement, Lake Sturgeon, Reinforcer Magnitude
An Examination of Operant Behavior in Lake Sturgeons (Acipenser fulvescens)
MUHAMMAD HAMZA SIDDIQUI (University of Manitoba)
Abstract: The aim of the study was to add to the literature surrounding operant behavior in lake sturgeons (Acipenser fulvescens). Using spatial location as a cue, an experimentally naïve lake sturgeon was conditioned to enter a designated target area (TC) in order to obtain food as reinforcement. Food was delivered on a continuous reinforcement (CRF) schedule. The experiment consisted of three phases: (1) a baseline; (2) a discriminative stimulus baseline (DBL); and (3) CRF for food. The subject showed greater number of overall responses with the target area associated with food delivery (TC) than with the target associated with no reinforcement delivery (TA). The results of this study provided evidence that supports previous findings which show that operant learning can be observed in fish. Furthermore, the results provide evidence to the hypothesis that food serves as a reinforcer for lake sturgeons.

Fixed-Ratio Behaviour of Lake Sturgeons (Acipenser fulvescens): Darkness as a Reinforcer

BRITTANY LOUISE COOK (University of Manitoba)

In an experimental tank (ET), two experimentally naïve lake sturgeons (Acipenser fulvescens) were operantly conditioned to enter one of four target areas where they received an auditory response-feedback stimulus (RFS) in the form of a click sound and – according to the prevailing FR schedule – 10 seconds of darkness. A multiple-baseline-across-subject’s design was used. Visual observation and a video-tracking system (VTS) monitored the number of responses emitted on each of the four target areas. The target areas were in the corners of the ET and had to be entered by the subject to constitute a response. The experiment involved the following phases: (1) no-feedback baseline (NFB); (2) discriminative stimulus baseline (DSB); (3) response-feedback baseline (RFSB); and (4) fixed-ratio (FR n). The data indicated a preference for the target area that produced darkness, which implies that darkness is a reinforcer for this species. This preference was indicated by a greater number of target area responses for the target area whose entry into produced darkness, and greater activity in and around that area relative to baseline phases. Furthermore, when the n of the FR n was increased the rate of responding also increased.

Operant Conditioning of Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens): Effects of Reinforcer Magnitude
SPENSER MARTIN (University of Manitoba)
Abstract: One experimentally naïve lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) was placed in a tank exposed to bright lights. Using a multi treatment reversal design (ABCBD), I turned the lights off in phase C (Lights Out Reinforcement) and dimmed the lights in phase D (Dimmed Light Reinforcement) as reinforcement when the sturgeon entered a specific corner of the tank. I measured the percent of corner entries in the reinforcing corner and compared the phases using Nonoverlap of All Pairs. I found significant comparisons between the No Feedback Baseline and Dimmed Light Reinforcement phases, t = .814, p = .004, the No Feedback Baseline and Lights Out Reinforcement phases, t = .914, p = .001, and the Dimmed Light Reinforcement and Lights Out Reinforcement phases, t = .680, p = .076, with 90% CIs [.405, 1], [.505, 1], [.050, 1], respectively. Thus, the percent of entries into the reinforcing corner increased as light intensity decreased. Researchers can use this study as a basis for future studies of reinforcer magnitude. The experiment ended prematurely due to COVID-19 regulations.



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