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Running the maze: animal sentience as a variable in the psychology of early maze experiments

MacDonald, Juliet (2014) Running the maze: animal sentience as a variable in the psychology of early maze experiments. In: Centre for Human Animal Studies (CfHAS) Inaugural Conference and Launch: Animals: ethics, sustainability, sentience, 25 October 2014, Edge Hill University, UK. (Unpublished)

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In this paper I trace the development of maze experiments and the start of mass breeding of rats and mice for laboratory use in the early twentieth century. I will take a critical approach to the discipline of Comparative Psychology, in which mazes were developed, viewing it from an external perspective (that of an artist-researcher). Beginning with the first mazes designed to demonstrate the intelligence of rats (Small, 1901) I will describe how this led to proliferation and then standardisation of mazes as devices to test theories of learning. The spatial configuration of mazes allowed limited scope for movement for the animals inside whereas the observer was able to view the whole set up and track the 'errors' of the disorientated occupant. I aim to show the epistemological implications of this, how such experiments act as devices of control and containment by positioning animals as objects of knowledge surveyed from above. Movements of the animals inside these devices were sometimes recorded as drawn lines within the organising diagram of the maze. Over the next thirty years, mazes became such a standard part of laboratory equipment in U.S. experimental psychology that the maze began to be described in terms of a computational device, with such factors as hunger, thirst, fear or desire being set as controllable variables (Tolman, 1937). I will argue that the sentience of the animals tested was regarded as a component in the maze apparatus, and continues to be a resource in such experiments.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: animal; maze; rat; diagram
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
N Fine Arts > NC Drawing Design Illustration
Schools: School of Art, Design and Architecture > Creative Interdisciplinary Research Centre
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Depositing User: Juliet Macdonald
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2014 14:02
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 11:43


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