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Q J Exp Psychol B. 1990 Feb;42(1):59-71.

A demonstration of observational learning in rats using a bidirectional control.

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  • 1University of Cambridge, U.K.


Hungry rats observed a conspecific demonstrator pushing a single manipulandum, a joystick, to the right or to the left for food reward and were then allowed access to the joystick from a different orientation. The effects of right-pushing vs left-pushing observation experience on (1) response acquisition, (2) reversal of a left-right discrimination, and (3) responding in extinction, were examined. Rats that had observed left-pushing made more left responses during acquisition than rats that had observed right-pushing, and rats that had observed demonstrators pushing in the direction that had previously been reinforced took longer to reach criterion reversal and made more responses in extinction than rats that had observed demonstrators pushing in the opposite direction to that previously reinforced. These results provide evidence that rats are capable of learning a response, or a response-reinforcer contingency, through conspecific observation.

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