When you are a psychology major, one of the courses or classes that you will be exposed to is behavioral psychology. This is where you get introduced to greats like Freud and Maslow. One of the biggest projects that I ever had to come across actually was the point where the seeds of my interest were planted.
It was those very seeds which blossomed into the very blog which you are reading today. As you may imagine, this project had to do with training mice to go through a pre-made maze. It was certainly challenging, let me tell you that. Mice are intelligent—yes, they are. However, they do need to be trained in order to do what you want them to. In doing this project, there were a lot of things I realized in hindsight. Hindsight is always 20/20.
So in my journey into getting the mouse (who I named Mercedes) toward where she needed to go, I figured out a few things that would have helped me better. So in case you gust ever need to train a mouse through a maze, take these key factors that I certainly wished I learned earlier:
Have a Set Goal
One of the troubles with a maze is that there are false ends. So you need to be clear from the beginning what the end goal is. My problem was that I let my Mercedes do as she pleased and just tried to go with the point where she went the most. This ended up confusing her further, as you can imagine.
Establish Proper Punishment
One of the best ways that I found for Mercedes to learn was to dole out suitable punishment whenever she went to the wrong branch of the maze. There are many ways in which mice could be punished but you also have to consider the long term effect on the mouse. One of my classmates used water to punish her mouse. She would spray a bit of water on the mouse whenever it would go down the wrong end.
This led the mouse to associate paths where it is not sprayed with water as the correct path. This seemed well and good—at the time. On the day of presentation itself, you are not allowed to have any contact with your mouse. You are not allowed to dole out any physical punishments if they make a mistake. You can only have their reward at the end of the right path.
As you can imagine, my classmate (who could not physically spray her mouse with water) could only watch as her mouse go through the maze all lost because it perceived everything to be the correct path since it was not being splashed with water. I went feeding Mercedes bread on incorrect ends and peanut butter only in the correct path. Mercedes eventually learned how to be familiar with the scent of peanut butter.
Training mice can be pretty tricky. However, you only need to be consistent in order to really train your mouse! The couple of key factors above should help you out if you have a mouse to train in your future.
What other key factors do you think are needed to train mice?