Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Continuous Measuring of Temporal and Spatial Changes in Rats' Behavior under Water Temporal Schedules

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Continuous Measuring of Temporal and Spatial Changes in Rats' Behavior under Water Temporal Schedules

Article excerpt

In 1932 Tolman stated a molar approach to behavior: "... as a molar phenomenon, behavior's immediate descriptive properties appear to be those of: getting to or from goal- objects by selecting certain means-objects-routes as against other and by exhibiting specific patterns of commerces with the selected means-objects ..." (p. 21). We propose that a molar perspective involves two different levels. On the one hand, it consists of theoretical concepts that consider that the components of any phenomenon are functionally interdependent in such a way that the phenomenon cannot be understood as a mere aggregate of its components (Ribes, 2007). On the other hand, a molar analysis highlights continuous measurement of the diverse dimensions of a phenomenon in opposition to the use of predetermined discrete measures. Moreover, phenomena are accounted in terms of changes observed in the functional relations of their properties along time and space (e.g., Pear, 1985), so molar measures do not assume a functional independence of their segments.

Operant conditioning and instrumental learning studies of animal behavior have employed procedures involving the relatively free movement of organisms in the experimental situations (Logan, 1960; Skinner, 1938), without focusing on the spatial organization of behavioral dimensions. In the free-operant situation, behavior is usually restricted to discrete measures of response rate and duration or temporal allocation, because it is seen as persistent responding on fixed located operanda (e.g., Baum & Rachlin, 1969; Ferster, 1953; Pear, 1985; Reynolds, 1966; Skinner, 1938). In the instrumental learning situation, behavior is evaluated by its average running speed, latency, and choices in different sorts of alleys and mazes (e.g., Clayton, 1964; Hill & Spear, 1963; Logan, 1960; Olton & Samuelson, 1976). In both situations, directionality of behavior, as continuous dynamic spatial organization in reference to stimulus conditions, is neglected by the emphasis on repeated responding on a fixed apparatus while ignoring what the organism is doing when is not emitting the target response. Such an approach has led to the formulation of analyses of responding, in which time takes place irrespectively of space as changes in location of the animal on the experimental chamber (e.g., Catania & Reynolds, 1968; Dews, 1962; Gallistel & Gibbon, 2000).

At most, studies referred to as spatial learning deal with place discrimination (e.g., Wilkie & Willson, 1992), activity and locomotion measures (e.g., Badelt & Blaisdell, 2008; Fowler et al., 2001; Pinkston & Branch, 2006), restricted displacement and differential time allocation between reinforcement sources (e.g., Gallistel et al., 2007), or sequential patterning of types of behavior during reinforcement intervals (e.g., Ribes & Chavez, 1988; Silva & Timberlake, 1998; Skinner, 1948; Staddon & Ayres, 1975; Staddon & Simmelhag, 1971). These studies do not consider the measurement of continuous dynamic changes of behavior along space and time as complementary coordinates of analysis.

To our knowledge, the only proposal that has incorporated the analysis of spatial distribution of behavior is the one of Pear and colleagues (Pear, 1985; Pear & Rector, 1979; Silva & Pear, 1995). Pear (1985) evaluated patterns of locomotion in pigeons exposed to Variable Interval (VI) 15 s and 5 min. He found patterns of responses close to the key when using VI 15 s and more extended patterns under VI5 min, showing that schedules of reinforcement have effects not only on the rate of response but also on the spatial distribution of behavior between responses, which highlights the importance of incorporating different dimensions of behavior in its description.

In our analysis, we propose that frequency or rate of responding, duration, and latency or speed are measures that provide information about persistence, preference, and vigor (i. …

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