Monday, November 21, 2011

The Musical Ability of Goldfish

After the death of a pet Papillion dog she had trained to participate in a Punch and Judy puppet show, she wasn’t emotionally ready to train another dog, and decided to see what she could do with goldfish. The plan was to include a video of the fish performing in a shadow puppet show. “I didn’t expect much from them other than to be able to train kind of rote behaviors,” Rains said. But Jor Jor caught on quickly when she trained her to ring a hand bell by pulling at a line extended into the water. “She took to it with such obvious zeal that I thought, you know, I need to pursue this more, because clearly this fish loves music,” Rains said. Rains uses operant conditioning devised by the psychologist B.F. Skinner in the 1950s as her training technique. It involves rewarding desired behavior, in little steps, with food until the entire action is completed. more

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