Monday, 3 March 2014

There's an app for that

One of the awesome things about science and technology is that as it advances, it becomes more accessible to the everyday person. In behavioral psychology we now have a couple of possible options for cheaper, open-source contraptions to use in our experiments:

"Yeah, yeah, just a minute - I'm about to beat my top score in Flappy Bird!"

The first of these programs was described  in this article, "Need to train your rat? There is an App for that: A touchscreen behavioral evaluation system" and this is an app freely available in the Apple store which allows researchers (or the general public) to create flexible behavioral experiments on a very tight budget. One of it's advantages is also that it doesn't require a great amount of coding knowledge either so it shouldn't be that hard to set up.

The second article, "ArduiPod Box: A low-cost and open-source Skinner box using an iPod Touch and an Arduino microcontroller" describes the equipment needed to build your own Skinner box, complete with the open-source program to run it. All up, you can supposedly build a functioning operant chamber for less than $300 (US, I assume).

Here's a demonstration of it:

Even if you aren't interested in becoming a mad scientist yourself and running the neighbourhood animals through complicated behavioral experiments just to serve your own maniacal curiosity, you have to admit, seeing a rat using an ipad is pretty cool.


  1. Nice article. I saw one of these papers but I had not yet seen the video. There is also a nice experiment controller based on the Propeller:
    I like this one as the Propeller has 8 processors. Multiple processors opens up a lot of possibilities and it seems pretty easy to use. I have also seen a few other Arduino based devices presented at conferences, but nothing else published yet. It is nice to see that there are so many good options available. I imagine there will only be more as time passes. I think I will try the Propeller device myself.

    1. Thanks for the info! It's great that this technology is becoming so accessible. Ideally it would be great if someone could create a child-friendly kit which would work similar to a "My First Chemistry Kit" to introduce children to the world of behavioral psychology and these inexpensive components would help with that.

      If you do try the Propeller device you should update me on your progress and I can post your progress as a how-to guide for others wanting to try the same thing.