The Xtreme Rat Challenge is the final demonstration project for students in NWU's Basic Learning Principles class. While in lecture, students study the intricacies of behaviorist learning theories, in lab they are able to directly apply this information. They may experiment with timing, types of reinforcers and techniques.
Watch the video on the Xtreme Rat Challenge:
How It Works
Each student is assigned a rat at the beginning of the semester. They take some time to get to know their rats and begin with standard magazine and lever training in the operant chamber. Through magazine training, the rat associates the sound of the dispenser with the presentation of food. Then using this sound as a positive reinforcer, the student shapes the rat's behavior until it reliably presses the lever to receive the reinforcer. With both the rats and the students now familiar with simple classical and operant conditioning techniques, the students may begin shaping their rats' behaviors to perform the tasks of the challenge.