In lecture last week Dr. Gail Peterson showed us a video of a mouse demonstrating instrumental conditioning. This was not the video of Skinners work, but one that compared the mouse's behavior to that of someone gambling at the end of the video. I do not want to talk about the gambling comparison, instead I want to discuss how the mouse reacted when the reward was given due to different circumstances.
In the video the mouse hits the lever, that activates a light and a food piece gets dispensed. The experimenter than changes the rules for the food reward. Now instead of being controlled by the mouse's actions, the food tablet is on a timer of 30 seconds. The mouse is now uncertain why his actions do not lead to the reward of food. He frantically presses on the lever, still illuminating the little light, but no food is dispensed. The experimenter claims that the mouse could just sit back and wait for the reward with no work, but instead he just puts in a lot of work for little reward.
I think there is something else to the mouse not just sitting back for the predetermined time and waiting for food. Animals do not understand the concept of time that humans have made. The little mouse has no clue that if he sits back for 30 seconds another piece of food will come out because it is set on a release timer. Time, like many other things, is human created. Money, time, freedom, art, these are just a few things humans have come up with that animals do not share. The mouse just thinks that he is doing something incorrectly, and that is the reason he is not receiving a reward.
When Skinner demonstrated his experiment on a mouse, the light was separate from the lever. When the light lit up, the mouse was then able to use the lever to activate the food dispenser. If the light was off, the lever had no effect.
I am still trying to find a link to the video that I am talking about. When I have found it I will link it as a comment.