A real simulated rat

[From Bruce Abbott (951109.1655 EST)]

Chris Cherpas (951107.1734 PT) --

Powers (1989)

We know that such a computer would be unaffected by the
reinforcements. What, then, is the difference between
the patterns of behavior when the organism and the computer
are "responding?" It is significant that this test has never
(to my knowledge) been done. As far as I know, nobody has
ever compared cumulative records obtained when (a) an organism
is operating the bar or key, and (b) an artificial device
programmed to behave arbitrarily is operating the bar or key.

Not true. In the lab I worked in, we routinely ran programs
to operate the devices used in operant conditioning experiments
to test the equipment.

In a former life when I was trying to sell my "ParaPort" computer interface
for operant studies, I rigged up a display in which a "rat" in a cut-away
operant chamber pressed a lever for food pellets on a designated schedule of
reinforcement. (Actually, the feeder was run empty, but it would click and
advance with each "reinforcement.") The "rat" was just a dummy with its
"paw" on the lever; the lever was actually operated from the rear by a
solenoid, which was pulsed under computer control. The "schedule" part of
the program used the closure of the lever's switch as the response event,
just as if a real rat had pressed the lever and not the solenoid. Alas, I
didn't try any concurrent schedules. (:-<

By the way, is is quite easy to resolve this question through computer
simulation, without needing any equipment other than the computer. In fact,
didn't we do this last year? I recall writing a program that implemented a
VI schedule and giving it a random response generator for testing purposes,
but I can't recall whether we tried this with concurrent VI-VI.

By the way, I've also been experiencing problems with the flow of CSG-L
posts. It is not unusual to receive someone's REPLY before the post being
responded to arrives here.