Research Publication Title

Sex Differences and Preference Assessment in Betta splendens

Major

Psychology

Faculty Mentor(s)

Kristina L. Dandy & Walter L. Isaac

Keywords

Preference, Food, Sex Differences, Betta splendens

Abstract

Existing research has used Betta splendens to study a variety of learning mechanisms (Craft et al., 2007). However, not much is known about the range of stimuli male and female Betta fish find reinforcing. In particular, little research has assessed the reinforcing effectiveness of food for male and female Bettas. While it is well documented that male Bettas find interactions with a conspecific reinforcing (Shapiro & Jenson, 2009), some conflicting reports suggest that male Bettas find food more reinforcing than access to a conspecific, via mirror presentation (Hogan, 1970). Therefore, we hypothesized that when given the opportunity to choose food or visual reinforcement, in the form of a mirror, male Bettas would choose mirror presentation more often than food, while female Bettas would choose food more often than mirror presentation. Eight Betta splendens (4 female, 4 male) were habituated to an eight arm radial maze prior to testing; this provided the opportunity for subjects to explore all arms of the maze. Following habituation, reinforcer preference was assessed for five days (one trial per day). During testing, fish were placed in the center of the maze, with all arms blocked. After thirty seconds elapsed, barriers were removed from two adjacent arms; one arm provided food and the other provided access to a mirror. Fish were free to choose either arm. A choice was recorded once the fish’s body completely crossed into an arm. Results revealed that males and females did not differ significantly on choice of mirror, t(5) = -.660, p = .538, or food , t(3) = -.522, p = .638. Though our findings did not support our hypothesis, they do suggest that food may be a viable reinforcer for both male and female Betta splendens. Results also serve as a step towards better understanding the range of stimuli that control and motivate Betta fish behavior.

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Sex Differences and Preference Assessment in Betta splendens

Existing research has used Betta splendens to study a variety of learning mechanisms (Craft et al., 2007). However, not much is known about the range of stimuli male and female Betta fish find reinforcing. In particular, little research has assessed the reinforcing effectiveness of food for male and female Bettas. While it is well documented that male Bettas find interactions with a conspecific reinforcing (Shapiro & Jenson, 2009), some conflicting reports suggest that male Bettas find food more reinforcing than access to a conspecific, via mirror presentation (Hogan, 1970). Therefore, we hypothesized that when given the opportunity to choose food or visual reinforcement, in the form of a mirror, male Bettas would choose mirror presentation more often than food, while female Bettas would choose food more often than mirror presentation. Eight Betta splendens (4 female, 4 male) were habituated to an eight arm radial maze prior to testing; this provided the opportunity for subjects to explore all arms of the maze. Following habituation, reinforcer preference was assessed for five days (one trial per day). During testing, fish were placed in the center of the maze, with all arms blocked. After thirty seconds elapsed, barriers were removed from two adjacent arms; one arm provided food and the other provided access to a mirror. Fish were free to choose either arm. A choice was recorded once the fish’s body completely crossed into an arm. Results revealed that males and females did not differ significantly on choice of mirror, t(5) = -.660, p = .538, or food , t(3) = -.522, p = .638. Though our findings did not support our hypothesis, they do suggest that food may be a viable reinforcer for both male and female Betta splendens. Results also serve as a step towards better understanding the range of stimuli that control and motivate Betta fish behavior.