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Stephen B. Klein

In: 21st Century Psychology: A Reference Handbook

Chapter 30: Animal Learning and Behavior

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Animal Learning and Behavior
Animal learning and behavior

Why do psychologists train rats or monkeys to press a bar for food, or present a buzzer prior to food presentation for cats or dogs, since these situations bear little resemblance to the real world? (In natural settings, rats and monkeys do not have to bar press for food, and cats and dogs do not usually hear a buzzer before they eat.) The answer to this question lies in the belief that there are some general laws of learning. These laws reveal themselves in the study of any behavior, even behaviors not exhibited in natural settings.

Psychologists investigating operant conditioning use the bar press response because many different species acquire it easily. Actually, the unnaturalness of bar pressing is ...

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