Rats! AP Psychology Students Use Rodents to Study Classical, Operant Conditioning

AP PSYCHOLOGY STUDENTS TEACH RATS -- Junior John Britt holds Jensen the rat while using classical conditioning techniques.

Preston Fore

AP PSYCHOLOGY STUDENTS TEACH RATS -- Junior John Britt holds Jensen the rat while using classical conditioning techniques.

DayOnna Carson, Staff Writer

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Most everyone has seen or heard about tests being done on rats and mice in science labs, but few have actually considered the time and effort it takes to do so. Well, here at Central, that is about to change because Central’s AP Psychology class has gotten the privilege to coach four rats as a part of their course.

“I like the idea of getting to train an animal that is typically not trainable,” comments Aly Brazier, a sophomore participating in the project.

Justine Staton, Central’s psychology and sociology instructor, has demonstrated multiple training methods to her students so that they will have the knowledge necessary for them to successfully tame the rats. This is Staton’s second year using the rodents, and she purchases new ones every year. This year, the rats have been named Skinner, Rufus, Albert, and Jensen.

In class, students have managed to teach the rats how to jump from one table to another and spin on their hind legs. Soon, the rats might be able to do even more simple commands or complete a cheese maze with their remarkable sense of smell. Students started out by allowing the animals to get accustomed to interacting with humans, and being familiar with their trainers.

“Training a rat relates to AP Psychology because we are using hands-on classical and operant conditioning,” explains Brazier.

Rats and mice are abundant, and breed quickly, hence the reason why they are constantly used in various studies. Another reason this may be is because of how closely related rodent genetics and behaviors mimic humans’. Rats can show the same symptoms or contract the same diseases as human beings do.

“PetSmart is where I get them each year, and I only purchase males because they generally have less health problems than girls,” Staton reveals.

This activity will help psychology students better understand how habits form and the inter-workings of the mind. Additionally the experience will also help AP Psychology realize the importance of patience, trust, and skill in psychology related careers.