Department of Psychology Recent Research Outcomes - Fall 2010

Goldfish Learning
Joan Cotter, Sherri Mae Howard, Mark Sappington, Mike Seals

The ability of goldfish to learn specific operant behaviors was evaluated by using the R2 Fish School and timing the latency of response. Two Comet Goldfish were successfully trained to perform various navigational and manipulative behaviors such as going through a hoop and nudging a soccer ball into a net. Shaping was used to develop the behaviors in stages, and both fish reduced latency in performance over time.

Learning in Two Comet Goldfish
Andrea Bova, Courtney Newlon, Samantha McGlumphy, and Lindsay Moffatt

Researchers examined the learning ability of comet goldfish through the use of principles of operant and classical conditioning. Two fish, Pauly D and Bert, were trained through wand recognition. Positive reinforcement with food and a continuous reinforcement schedule were used to facilitate learning. Training procedures were the same for both fish, however, Pauly D showed higher learning ability. Bert did not fully learn wand recognition, while Pauly D learned two tricks fully beyond the wand training; he learned to swim through a hoop and finger feed. Results indicate that goldfish have the capacity to learn when trained.

Training Mr. Kite and Sgt. Pepper
Sarah Mogan, Andrew Groves, Tom Donley, and Stephanie Zeller

Two goldfish, approximately three inches in length, were trained using operant conditioning methods. The training was done using the R2 Fish School Complete Fish Training System. The goldfish were trained to do various activities such as swim through hoops and tunnels of varying sizes. The researchers timed each training session and discovered that Mr. Kite followed a surprisingly normal learning curve. After the introduction of a new task Mr. Kite's trial times decreased steadily. Sgt. Pepper, however, did not display any noticeable learning curves. Sgt. Pepper seemed to be very distracted by gravel at the bottom of the tank, so distracted as to hinder his ability to learn the tasks the researchers were trying to train him to do.

Effects of Figure Sex and Size on Perceived Personality Characteristics
Alaina Antoinette, Chrissy Pavlik, Sierra Moore, Michael Little, and Kristin Johnson

Eighty-five undergraduates from Wheeling Jesuit University viewed line drawings of very thin, low-average weight, high-average weight, and very heavy men and women, presented in random order, and judged each on five personality characteristics- openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability. In general, the very heavy male and female figures were viewed the most negatively. Depending on the characteristic, male figures ranging from very thin to very heavy were viewed positively but only the low-average weight female figure was viewed positively. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for attitudes towards obese individuals.

Operant Conditioning in Comet Goldfish
Melissa Burch, Stefani Mertz, and Darcee dela Cruz

Speed of acquisition of operant learning tasks was measured in common goldfish over the course of one semester. The goldfish were trained on a variety of operant conditioning tasks with food as the reinforcement. The fish were first taught to associate the feeding wand with the food reinforcement. The wand was then used to shape the fish to learn the other tasks. When switching a training task, experimenters tried to select tasks that were best suited to the individual skills/ competencies of each subject as much as possible. Consistent accomplishment of each task's goals was the determining factor by which a subject could be moved on to the next task to be trained. This was generally occurred after several weeks of training. In all, this study confirmed that goldfish can learn by operant conditioning and that over the course of 9 weeks a goldfish can effectively learn at least 3 different operant tasks.

Weight Estimates Related to Body Mass Indices
Amy Pinkerton, Ryan Mason, Katie Winters-Hazen, and Ariadne Cerritelli

Undergraduates estimated the weights of the male and female Stunkard line drawing figures and chose the ones they thought represented the healthiest man and woman. Results showed significant weight differences among all the figures with equal percent weight changes between each pair, demonstrating that the drawings can best be described as an interval scale. Participants selected figures with body mass indices (BMIs) within the CDC standards of health, regardless of their own BMI.

Effects of Controlled Substances Scents on Pain Threshold and Tolerance
Andrea Bova, Andrew Groves, Michael Seals, Bryan Raudenbush and Roger Moses

Twenty-seven undergraduate students participated in a study investigating the effects of scent on pain tolerance. Participants completed a cold pressor test in three scent conditions (no scent, beer, and marijuana). They placed their hand in 3°C water until it was intolerable but no longer than five minutes. Researchers asked for a pain rating of 0-10 (0 = no pain and 10 = intolerable) every 30 seconds with pre/post blood pressure and heart rate as pain indicators. After the final test, participants answered a questionnaire based on substance experience. Results indicate that males experience increased tolerance in the marijuana condition whereas females have decreased tolerance in beer and marijuana conditions. Those who consumed alcohol "sometimes" and "often" lasted longer in testing.

Effects of Artificial Sweeteners on Pain Threshold and Tolerance
Bryan Raudenbush, Mark Sappington and Kristin McCombs

Previous research has shown the benefits of sweet substance consumption on pain tolerance. The current study used 30 participants to compare pain tolerance, mood, and perceived task load in artificial sweetener consumption. Participants completed six conditions (xylitol, sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, and stevia, and a control) and were asked to hold their hand in a cold pressor tank. Analyses were performed to determine possible effects using appropriate ANOVA techniques. Tolerance was greatest in the stevia condition, such that participants held their hands in the cold pressor an average of 30 seconds longer as compared to other conditions, F(5,135)=2.553, p=.031. Otherwise, a trend existed for condition and pain, F(5,243)=2.048, p=.076 and pain ratings increased over time, F(9,243)- 6.423, p=.000. For pleasantness ratings, there was a statistically significant difference between conditions with xylitol found to be the most pleasant sweetener and stevia as the least pleasant, F(4, 92)=25.792, p=.000. Similar results were found for sweetness intensity ratings with xylitol being the most intense and stevia being the least intense, F(4, 92)= 5.928, p=.000. Results indicate that artificial sweeteners influenced levels of tolerance. Implications for such research include seeking ways to use sweeteners for distraction to pain and as an adjunct to pain management.

Effects of Soccer Ball Heading on Scent Identification and Olfactory Functioning
Bryan Raudenbush and August Capiola

Past research shows that head injury decreases ability to identify scent and olfactory functioning. The present study looked at head injury related to soccer and tested what effect heading frequency, heading intensity, concussion, and dizziness had on scent identification from pre to post season. The purpose of this study attempted to find the level of change that would occur to explain dysfunction in soccer players' change in scent identification and olfactory functioning and relate those results to provide an explanation of scent change and abnormal functioning in the everyday population. Men and women soccer teams at an east-coast private school were asked to identify scents from scratch and sniff booklets before and after their soccer seasons. New booklets were provided each scent identification session. The correlation for scent ability and various actions were as follows: r = .75 for heading frequency, r = .47 for heading intensity, r=.80 for concussion, and r = .58 for dizziness. After addressing the correlations found between scent ability and heading frequency, heading intensity, concussion, and dizziness, the data were put into a multiple regression to find that heading frequency, intensity, concussion, and dizziness accounted for 75% of the decreased ability to identify scent and olfactory functioning. Future research may help to explain what particular head injuries and related actions would effect scent identification and olfactory functioning the most and possibly uncover solutions to avoiding these particular circumstances.