A study of persistent errors in animal learning



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The factors affecting the process of learning are numerous. Buel (1935) has enumerated some of the factors operative in the learning of mazes by rats. In his classification there are ninety-three types of factors. These are classified under the following headings: genetic make-up of the organism, physiological determiners, physical determiners, route and blind preferences, goal functions, emotional factors, maze structure and patterns, general orienting factors, "expectancy," and organizing factors. Many of these factors are of a physical nature; others are of a psychological nature. Under the heading "maze structure and pattern" Buel lists, with other factors, the following two: turn sequences and length of maze. By turn sequences is meant the order in which left and right turns succeed one another in the correct path of the maze. By length of maze is meant either the length of the component units of the maze or the number of such units used in assembling it. The purpose of this study is to report and interpret results obtained from maze experiments in which turn sequence, length of maze units, and number of units were considered variables. Specifically, the problems dealt with are the following: (1) Is mastery of a bi-dimensional maze influenced by patterns of turn sequence in the alleys of the maze? (2) What are some of the patterns of sequence which increase difficulty of mastery? (3) In these specialized patterns does difficulty express itself in a persistence of errors at certain turns; and if so do these errors Increase in frequency of occurrence throughout attempted learning of the maze? (4) If certain insolvable patterns exist can their difficulty be interpreted with respect to current theories of learning? A study of the data obtained, by training rats in mazes consisting of special turn sequences and of various lengths, threw light on these questions. The results of other investigators were also used for comparison