Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Etan Markus, John Salamone, Ian Stevenson

Field of Study

Psychological Sciences


Master of Science

Open Access

Open Access


Observational, or imitative, learning is a vital skill for survival. This type of social learning plays an important role in human development (e.g. Bandura), but is also relevant for other species.

We have developed an observational learning paradigm in which rats must learn the location of food in a T-shaped maze through observation. This is a working memory task with the correct goal changing on a daily basis. Therefore, the observer must attend to the demonstrator rat’s performance on a daily or continuous basis.

F344 rats can be trained to observe the location of food on a T-maze before being placed on the maze. In addition, our results suggest that the performance of the observed animal affects the performance of the observing animal. Animals which observe an error perform significantly worse than animals which observe no errors, specifically when there are less trials to observe.

This behavioral paradigm serves as a novel way to assess observational learning in animals. Additionally, this paradigm is particularly useful for neuroscience experiments which aim to determine the neural mechanisms of observational learning.

Major Advisor

Etan Markus