Describe the strategy you used to shape Sniffy’s lever-pressing behavior and why this strategy is the best. Why was it important to build the sound-food association before the other operant associations? What criterion did you use to determine that Sniffy learned the desired behavior? Could you recognize that Sniffy learned the behavior on the cumulative record? How long did it take (in terms of time or # of trials)? Is it difficult to determine when learning occurred and why? Give a specific example of how operant conditioning might shape Sniffy’s actions in a natural setting. If you were to train an actual rat what would you do differently based on your experience with Sniffy? How could operant conditioning be used to improve some aspects of your own life? Could you recognize on the cumulative record when Sniffy’s learned behavior reached extinction and when spontaneous recovery occurred? How long did it take (in terms of either time or # of trials) for these to occur?

Sample Answer: Writing Guide

Operant conditioning is a type of learning where the behavior of an organism is shaped by the consequences of its actions. In the case of Sniffy, a virtual rat, the goal was to shape its lever-pressing behavior.

To do this, the sound-food association was built first, as it provided a positive reinforcement that would motivate Sniffy to press the lever. Once this association was established, the lever-pressing behavior was gradually reinforced, starting with simple actions such as approaching the lever and eventually pressing it.

The strategy used to shape Sniffy’s lever-pressing behavior involved reinforcing small, incremental steps towards the desired behavior, such as approaching the lever, touching it, and finally pressing it. This gradual shaping process is called successive approximations.

To determine whether Sniffy had learned the desired behavior, a criterion was set, such as a certain number of lever presses within a given time period. If Sniffy met this criterion, it was deemed to have learned the behavior.

The cumulative record is a graphical representation of an animal’s behavior, which can be used to track changes in behavior over time. It is possible to recognize on the cumulative record when Sniffy learned the desired behavior by observing an increase in the number of lever presses over time.

The time it takes to shape Sniffy’s behavior can vary depending on the complexity of the behavior and the individual differences in learning ability. It could take anywhere from a few minutes to several days or even weeks.

In a natural setting, operant conditioning could be used to shape Sniffy’s actions, such as learning to find food in a particular location or avoiding predators.

If training an actual rat, there may be differences in the process of shaping behavior, such as the need to account for individual differences in learning ability and the possibility of environmental factors affecting the learning process.

Operant conditioning can be used to improve aspects of one’s own life by reinforcing positive behaviors, such as healthy eating habits or exercise routines.

Extinction refers to the gradual decrease in behavior when the reinforcement is no longer present. Spontaneous recovery refers to the reappearance of the behavior after a period of extinction. It is possible to recognize these on the cumulative record by observing a decrease in the number of lever presses during extinction and an increase in the number of lever presses during spontaneous recovery. The time it takes for extinction and spontaneous recovery can vary depending on the individual and the circumstances of the experiment.