Tass wrote:Wow, will it really be that much of a problem?
It depends on how seriously you want to take it. Realistically, the way you've described it above, you probably won't encounter too many problems and with a little bit of luck any problems will be overcome by more training. If you were hoping to plot the results and make the data available, and especially if you were ever going to consider trying to publish your stuff (I know that's probably not your aim, but still worth highlighting this), then you will definitely get much cleaner data and much more consistent behavior if you account for the issues I described above.
Tass wrote:I was planning on having the bowl right beside the tablet in the beginning, moving it away was just a maybe for later. I am of course also going to make it play a "reward sound" so that she gets conditioned to associate that sound with reward. The idea was: She does something on the tab -> it goes 'pling' and a few seeds drop into her bowl next to her. Is that really so different from: She does something on the tab -> it goes 'pling' and the lid covering the seeds goes away for a few seconds?
The "pling" is a good idea. For most lab set-ups the conditioning is done by the mechanics of the hopper dropping, which just makes a light 'thud' - but any sound will work, of course. The difference is essentially that you're setting up an open economy, rather than a closed one, which means that there is less incentive to work at the task you've given her. If it's only going to be a couple of seeds, and you won't let it build up, then obviously that quantity won't affect your data a great deal, but the question then just becomes: why allow it to possibly become an issue at all?
Tass wrote:Then once she had learned that doing well means pling, and pling means seeds in the bowl, I was thinking that maybe I could move it away and see if she will move back and forth to pick up the few seeds every time she earned them, or whether she will realize that she can stay and get some more plings before going to eat them.
This would basically be a foraging experiment, and there are a number of equations which can be used to help you calculate the point at which she'll give up one "patch" for another. There's a good book by Stephens and Krebs called "Foraging Theory
" that might be useful to you there. Unfortunately, the book itself can be quite expensive but the googlebooks link there is still pretty generous, and although the book is getting a little old now, the basics are still accurate enough for something like what you're doing (plus it's quite easy to read as well).
There are a number of experiments which have set up a foraging task using two alternatives (or more if you like) where there is no physical distance involved. The rewards are "lined up" on each alternative, so the left key might give 2 rewards in total, and the right key gives 8 rewards, and once all the rewards are taken from each alternative, the rewards get reset and they can start again. Then you just measure which option they prefer, how long they stay there, when they switch, etc.
Tass wrote:In any case I am not going to let it fill up or let her have large amounts of leftovers, I that happens I will make the tasks harder, or let the tab turn off when she has earned too much.
Concerning the progress of the project. I have installed the app development software on my laptop, and have done some preliminary programming and gotten it to work on the tab. The hardware building is the limiting factor now; not just the feeder, but also the protection case for the electronics. I have let her play with the unprotected tab under close supervision, her tongue does work on the screen, as I was pretty certain it would, but it is nice to have it tested.
Good to hear it's coming along well. Have you planned on monitoring the amount of feed etc that your parrot receives? It can be important to weigh her every day (preferably anyway, but once a week would probably be fine) for two reasons: 1) to ensure she doesn't gain too much weight, and 2) to ensure that she doesn't lose
too much weight. I mention the latter because, ideally, you'll want to limit her access to ad lib food so she's a bit hungry and she'll work for food (without become satiated halfway through the tasks and giving up). Normally experimental subjects are kept at around 85% of their free-feeding weight, which means you let them eat as much food as they like every day for weeks, weighing them consistently, and then working out generally what their 'maximum' weight it and calculating 85% of that. Then when you weigh her, you figure out whether she's under or over weight, and give her an amount of food which is appropriate for whether you need her to gain or lose weight (obviously she should get feed every day though, even if she's over the calculated 85% weight).