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We're taught early on that the rat is placed within the following setup.

enter image description here

In that diagram, there are no potential distractions for the rat. There's only a lever.

1) Does the rat simply 'discover' the lever, or did researchers show the rat how it's done the first time?

2) In an environment with many distractions, how would you ensure that the rat pulls the lever for the first time?

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    $\begingroup$ We used to use peanut butter. $\endgroup$
    – StrongBad
    Apr 26, 2019 at 12:23
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    $\begingroup$ Rats and mice are pretty curious creatures, they'll sooner or later press on everything. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 26, 2019 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @StrongBad - I'd turn your comment into an answer - as an experience expert it's a valuable answer imo $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Apr 26, 2019 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ @AliceD my experience is limited to a summer internship as a undergrad. I was kind of hoping that someone with real experience would step forward. $\endgroup$
    – StrongBad
    Apr 26, 2019 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ @StrongBad I gotcha, but it's valid answer nonetheless and my hunch is that mediocre answers can draw in other answers. In other words, I would go for it, you've got my vote. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Apr 27, 2019 at 7:02

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Rats and other creatures are curious and like to explore their environments. When the action is easy, such as a large lever on the wall, most animals will find it quickly, and if the action is reinforced, easily demonstrate operant conditioning. In the case where the action is hard, such as Thorndike putting cats in puzzle boxes and observing how long it took them to escape, the motivation to find the solution comes from the animal seeking to escape: https://www.simplypsychology.org/edward-thorndike.html

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