Saturday, January 12, 2008

Article on Fish Training

There is a very intersting article on Karen Pryor's Clicker Training website about fish training by professor Ogden Lindsley from the University of Kansas. Dr. Lindsley is a real giant in the field of animal behavior and learning. He was one of B.F. Skinner's first graduate students, and is a past president of the Association for Behavior Analysis.

"Clickers" are great conditioned reinforcers for training animals with ears, like dogs. But in the article, professor Lindsley talks about more appropriate alternatives for training fish. He suggests using a laser, a flashlight or tapping on the tank wall as the "good job" conditioned reinforcer signal, and dropping food into a food ring at the water surface to actually deliver reward.

These strategy will probably work, but will take a long time for the fish to learn, since the flashing lights and tapping may spook your fish. More importantly, the delivery of the light signal and food rewards are not spatially associated with the trick or behavior being taught.

This drawback of slow learning is demonstrated by the fact that it took Dr. Lindsley and his students about two weeks of twice-daily training sessions to teach their fish even simple tricks. Prof. Lindsley also points out another shortcoming of using lights as the conditioned reinforcer says:

Fish are primarily visual and their eyes are very sensitive. We eventually dissuaded the use of lasers because it was so hard to keep them off the fishes' heads and out of their eyes.
The feeding wand, which forms the cornerstone of the new Fish School training system, eliminates the problems with using a light or laser as the reinforcer signal during training. The feeding wand won't harm or scare your fish, and it allows you to deliver the food reward exactly where and when your fish does the trick.

Fish School's targeted reward delivery technique will have your fish learning tricks in no time!


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