A novel task for the investigation of action acquisition

STAFFORD, Tom, THIRKETTLE, Martin, WALTON, Tom, VAUTRELLE, Nicolas, HETHERINGTON, Len, PORT, Michael, GURNEY, Kevin and REDGRAVE, Pete (2012). A novel task for the investigation of action acquisition. PLoS ONE, 7 (6), e37749.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037749


We present a behavioural task designed for the investigation of how novel instrumental actions are discovered and learnt. The task consists of free movement with a manipulandum, during which the full range of possible movements can be explored by the participant and recorded. A subset of these movements, the 'target', is set to trigger a reinforcing signal. The task is to discover what movements of the manipulandum evoke the reinforcement signal. Targets can be defined in spatial, temporal, or kinematic terms, can be a combination of these aspects, or can represent the concatenation of actions into a larger gesture. The task allows the study of how the specific elements of behaviour which cause the reinforcing signal are identified, refined and stored by the participant. The task provides a paradigm where the exploratory motive drives learning and as such we view it as in the tradition of Thorndike 1. Most importantly it allows for repeated measures, since when a novel action is acquired the criterion for triggering reinforcement can be changed requiring a new action to be discovered. Here, we present data using both humans and rats as subjects, showing that our task is easily scalable in difficulty, adaptable across species, and produces a rich set of behavioural measures offering new and valuable insight into the action learning process.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Animals,Behavior,Humans,Learning,Learning: physiology,Movement,Movement: physiology,Photic Stimulation,Rats,Reinforcement (Psychology),Reproducibility of Results,Task Performance and Analysis
Departments - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities > Department of Psychology, Sociology and Politics
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037749
Page Range: e37749
Depositing User: Martin Thirkettle
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2017 14:03
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 04:11
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/15923

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