, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 352-362

Reinforcement and the organization of behavior in golden hamsters: Sunflower seed and nest paper reinforcers


Undeprived hamsters received nest paper or sunflower seeds in their home cages, free or contingent on one of three activities. The pattern of effects of reinforcement was the same as that reported previously with food for hungry hamsters in an open field: Open rearing and scrabbling quickly increased in rate when reinforced with paper or seeds, but face washing showed little or no increase. Certain interrelations found previously between noncontingent effects of reinforcers, deprivation effects, and contingent effects were absent and therefore are not essential to the differences among these three behaviors during reinforcement. The hamsters could learn to interrupt fact washing to collect either paper or seeds, but even then they did not increase their time face washing to high levels. Raising the operant level of face washing by spraying the animals with water did not improve instrumental performance. Face washing could be classified as an involuntary activity, but this term does not provide a full account of its special properties, such as shortened bouts, during reinforcement and punishment.

This research was supported by grants to the author from the National Research Council of Canada.