Jessica Spieldenner, Ph.D. (2012)

Major Professor:

Dr. Jerome Frieman                                                    

Title and Institution:

Chair, Department of Veterinary Technology, Westchester Community College

Dissertation:

Investigation of Temporal Discounting in Dwarf Hamsters (Phodopus campbelli) and Sprague-Dawley Rats (Rattus norvegicus) in an Operant Choice Task

Abstract:

The present experiment investigated whether dwarf hamsters (Phodopus campbelli) demonstrate temporal discounting. This was investigated by comparing the behavior of dwarf hamsters and        Sprague-Dawley rats (Rattus norvegicus) in an adjusting delay procedure and applying the theory of behavioral economics to explain the resulting behavior. Dwarf hamsters demonstrated temporal discounting and tolerated longer delays than did the more impulsive rats. There was not a statistically significant difference between these species concerning indifference points. There was a statistically significant difference in the slopes of their discounting functions and the delay at which the end criterion was met. Neither species exhibited sex differences with respect to these measures nor with storage of food. There were a number of differences between the species. Rats started responding quickly, whereas dwarf hamsters waited significantly longer. When faced with increasing delays, rats increased the number of pellets earned while dwarf hamsters earned the same amount. Finally, rats lost weight throughout the experiment while dwarf hamsters gained weight. There were also a number of similarities. When faced with an increasing delay, both rats and dwarf hamsters increased the number of responses made, and increased the number of times they timed out on Larger Later trials. Some of these findings disagree with previous research and predictions of the behavioral economic theory of demand, creating a need for further research.