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Blog Development and First Assignment

PSYCHOLOGY 381: Blog Development and First Assignment

Blog Guidelines

Two major purposes

1)      To keep a record of what you do in the laboratory.  Memories are notoriously poor and record keeping organizes what we do and our thoughts about it.

2)       Science demands that we make public what we do.   Your blog will let everyone know what you’ve done and allow for “brainstorming” sessions during class.  During these sessions, ideas get generated and the creative process flourishes.

Blog development

Each day make careful notes that include important features about your experiment.  For example, you may note the session times (“today I started at 9 AM and finished at 11 AM”) noting if these times vary and if your rat’s performance seems to vary with them.  You may discover that your rat does better with longer sessions (“today I worked for almost two hours with my rat and for the first time I saw progress”).  Note a technique that seemed useful (“I started clicking the clicker twice, once when I put the food in the box and once just before she ate it”).  You’ll find that the rat’s weight is important (“today she weighted 147 grams, 10 grams more than before and she ate only 12 pellets”).   Some notes may be questions such as: “why should my rat turn a circle just before eating the food pellet?”  Each daily session should result in about a page of notes.  I can’t tell you exactly what should be noted, it depends upon what you consider important.

The blog is guided by your daily notes.

1)      The blog should start with your goal for that week

2)        Then, the blog should tell what was, and was not, accomplished.  You should note the procedure(s) used and what did and did not, work.  Knowledge of your procedure can facilitate instructive discussion.  Note things of particular interest (“once conditioned to come to the hole for food, I could let her wander anywhere in the box, then click, and she would quickly run to the hole”).

3)       When you learn how, a short video of your rat’s behavior is invaluable.  Also, a graph of the behavior is instructive.

The blog is for others to read and must be crystal clear yet short.  The blog should utilize language about behavior not about your inferences about that behavior.  For example:

Correct: “she no longer ate the food pellet after 50 previous trials.”

Incorrect: “Fluffy wasn’t hungry and refused to eat the pellet since she was full after 50 pellets.”

Correct: “she approached the left corner of the box immediately following the clicker presentation.”

Incorrect: “as soon as Fluffy heard the clicker, she knew to go to the left corner for her food.”

Your blog is a springboard for class discussion – “brainstorming” – limited to 15 minutes.  Come prepared to fill in details and answer questions.

A possible  Blog Post for a Given Week You will have a blog post for each full week of class

Goal:

   To classically condition an association between a clicker noise ( CS) and food (US).  My purpose is to condition my rat to approach the left corner hole of the experimental box (see illustration below) each time I operated a hand clicker.  

Procedure:

   My rat was 1- hours food deprived just prior to the session and weighted 167 grams, 2 grams below her average weight.  Daily sessions start at 12:30 PM.   The experimental box has a hole near the left corner through which, for 4 days, she was fed food pellets (see illustration) from my fingers.  On day 1 of training, I click the clicker immediately before she takes the food – ultimately to get the clicker to serve as a CS for approaching the hole for food.  Session 1 continued for 20 food presentations.  I repeated this procedure for 3 consecutive days; each session lasted 45 minutes with 20 pellets consumed. 

(For illustrations you might have a graphic of the box, the food pellet, etc. to give the reader some idea of what you are doing.  For example: figures 1 and 2 are diagrams of the relative size of the food pellet and the experimental box.  The following video illustrated my rat’s behavior up to this point).

Results:

    I clicked the clicker while she was in the appropriate corner not far from the hole to see if she showed signs of approach but she didn’t. 

Discussion:

    Possibly, the clicker sound was not the best predictor of food; perhaps it was movement my fingers or some particular sound I made.  It is also possible that 45 minutes and 20 pellets are not sufficient and I must extend the sessions.  It is also possible that three days is not enough repetition for conditioning.  Perhaps I should also wait 30 minutes before feeding her in her home cage following conditioning sessions.

Assignment for first blog post

For your first blog post, state your goal for the first week – handle and observe your rat at least one hour a day in order to tame her and foster possible questions about her behavior.  For this blog I’d like you to research a short piece about your rat –from the strain Sprague-Dawley: her history and signs of ailments to watch for.    Reference your sources using APA format.  References should be carefully selected; some are useful and appropriate, most will be irrelevant for your purpose.  The point is, don’t just Google Sprague-Dawley and use the first 2 or 3 references as your sources.  The whole blog post should not exceed 500 words; considerable editing and re-editing will be necessary to make the piece meaningful and interesting, yet short and easy to read.

 

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