After completing the initial phase A of our experiment and beginning phase B, we noticed that the rats continued to perform the trick of jumping through the hoop after denying food, which we believed to be an interesting phenomenon to investigate further. With the advice from our professor, we decided to slightly change the experiment from our original idea. Therefore, we changed the procedure to include recording the jumps the rats performed without food reinforcement after denying food three consecutive times. Therefore, we do not have an average from the first phase A of the number of jumps performed without reinforcement because this was a phenomenon observed while in the process of experimentation. Rat 1, Diva, averaged 44.6 jumps with food reinforcement during phase B, while Rat 2, Beyonce averaged 57 jumps. In phase B, the average number of jumps without food reinforcement after food denial for Diva and Beyonce were 16.2 and 12 jumps, respectively. In the final phase A, Diva averaged 56 jumps with reinforcement and 3.2 without reinforcement, while Beyonce averaged 57.2 jumps with reinforcement and 3.8 without reinforcement. The results show that the rats continued to perform the conditioned behavior without reinforcement more when they were being water deprived in Phase B.
The amounts of water consumed daily changed during each phase of the experiment. During the initial phase A of the experiment, Diva drank 24 ml of water on average, while Beyonce drank 33 ml of water on average. During phase B, which was the phase where the rats were water deprived for an hour prior to the experiment, Diva and Beyonce drank more water daily at 35 and 43 ml, respectively. The final phase A averages demonstrated mixed results, with Diva drinking less water on average than phase B, at 28 ml, and Beyonce drinking more water daily than phase B, at 44 ml. Diva’s water averages throughout the ABA design really show a U-shaped curve. In the two A-phases when no water deprivation was occurring, Diva drank about 10mL less water on average than she did in Phase B where she was deprived of water for 1-hour
We discovered an intriguing phenomenon throughout the process of this experiment. Both of our rats would perform the trick, and then they would get to a point where they would deny taking the food from our hand. However, after they denied the food, they would continue performing the conditioned behavior of the trick. We thought this was interesting because they were no longer receiving reinforcement for their performance and it is intriguing as to why they would continue to perform the task when they were no longer accepting the food as reinforcement. We believe that they might be doing this because we gave them water breaks during trick training earlier in the semester; therefore, we hypothesize they might be continuing to perform for us to earn a water break. Another hypothesis for this phenomenon is that the “click” sound was enough of a reinforcement for the rats because we clicked at the same time as we presented a piece of food. When the rat rejected the food and continued to perform the trick, we still used the click as reinforcement for doing the task.
Our hypothesis is supported by our results. We hypothesized that the rats would perform more jumps and that their trial session would last longer during the two A phases because the rats were not deprived of water, would be less thirsty, and able to work longer. The average amount of jumps for each phase demonstrates this because each rat showed that they jumped through the hoop more times during the A phases. Therefore, when the rats were deprived of water, the reinforcing value of the food became less important faster than when they were not deprived.
A limitation to our experiment was that we did not observe the rats’ intriguing behavior until the original first two days of Phase B. After we had already completed running trials and collecting data from the first Phase A, we noticed that the rats continued to jump through the hoop after the food lost its’ reinforcing value in Phase B to a surprising extent. Due to time constraints we could not restart from Phase A to record how many more jumps the rats did, so we only restarted Phase B. Therefore, in the data analysis we can only compare Phase B and the second Phase A in regards to the rats’ continuing to perform the conditioned behavior after denying the food as reinforcement. This aspect is the most intriguing to us, so it would have been beneficial to have recorded data on it in the first Phase A. Another limitation was that our ability to generalize becomes a factor because we only ran the experiment with two participants and in a laboratory setting. A third limitation is that there were various environmental factors that could have affected our data collection due to the limited space in the laboratory and the presence of other experimenters adding extra noise and distraction. We were rarely alone in the laboratory and sometimes other experimenters were using their clickers at the same time as us and their talking and moving around the room could have affected the rats’ behavior.
More research should be done on why the rats continue to perform the conditioned behavior when the reinforcement has lost its valuable effect. This is the most intriguing aspect of our experiment and has truly proven to be a surprising and puzzling occurrence. More research in the area of water deprivation should be done because we have shown that such a slight change can have an influential result. We took the water away from the rats 1 hour prior to the session in Phase B. More experimentation could be done with taking the water away 2 or 3 hours before the trials are run. Lastly, more experimentation with the difficulty and set-up of the conditioned trick behavior could be done. Perhaps a more difficult or layered trick than jumping through a hoop could be conditioned.