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Old 01-12-2005, 09:44 AM
BarnOwl is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 4,748

Skinner Box and backyard birds


I’ve long wondered if any Dopers have hung out a Skinner Box to see how their back yard birds handled the challenge of getting the food rewards.

Just now, I started searching the web to learn more on the subject.

I wasn’t specific enough (as usual) on the first try, so I ended up with a lot of junk.
But I came across one jewel:

http://www.geocities.com/Omegaman_UK/beasts.html

The site is short on Skinner, but long on animal tool-making. It’s kindergarten stuff for people with a course or two in behavioral psychology, perhaps, but for others…well you be the judge.

Here’s an excerpt about ants using sand as a tool:.

“In what is now Ghana, colonial forestry official W B Collins witnessed the extraordinary way in which driver ants harnessed a simple tool to break through the defences of a horde of snails. Driver ants can reduce a python to bones in an hour, but these snails initially repelled the ant army by secreting a foam-like mucus into the entrances of their shells for protection.
The ants deposited crumbs of dry soil in the mucus. As the liquid was absorbed, the snails responded by secreting yet more mucus, and in turn, the ants deposited more soil around the snails. This relentless attack technique was repeated until the snails had exhausted their mucus reserves and lay defenceless.”

You might like the site’s lead story even better. It tells us about a rather intelligent Falcon named Hob.

By the way, at this site you’ll find a dropdown menu of “sponsored links” that obstruct the view. If you simply click on the “corporal stripes” opposite Yahoo! Geocities” they’ll go away.

Anyway, if some Dopers have Skinner Box stories or yarns about animal behavior in general, I hope you’ll share them here.
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Old 01-12-2005, 10:46 AM
Phlosphr is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: in a Moot
Posts: 11,621
Psych Prof. checking in albeit briefly...
Nearly any animal can use a skinner box. We routinely use them in the department to serenade our rats. We teach them to distinguish between Beethoven and Bach, it's a nice experiment when I cycle into teaching the research methods classes. (Tho I'll not be teaching anymore in CT, as I'm moving to AZ...story for a different time)

Anyway, I'd encourage you to build yourself a Skinner Box and have a go with some squirrels, they would be the most likely to learn something the quickest...depending on your geographic location that is....

Have fun...
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