Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 757 pages of information about Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1.

This tendency of the frog to attempt to seize any moving object I made use of to test the value of sounds.  By placing a frog in a glass aquarium which was surrounded by a screen, back of which I could work and through a small hole in which I was able to watch the animal without being noticed by it, and then moving a bit of red cardboard along one side of the aquarium, I could get the frog to jump at it repeatedly.  In each attempt to get the moving object, the animal struck its head forcibly against the glass side of the aquarium.  There was, therefore, reason to think that a few trials would lead to the inhibition of the reaction.  Experiment discovered the fact that a hungry frog would usually jump at the card as many as twenty times in rapid succession.

In this reaction to a visual stimulus there appeared good material for testing audition.  I therefore arranged a 500 S.V. tuning fork over the aquarium and compared the reactions of animals to the visual stimulus alone, with that to the visual stimulus when accompanied by an auditory stimulus.  The tuning-fork sound was chosen because it seemed most likely to be significant to the frog.  It is similar to the sounds made by the insects upon which frogs feed.  For this reason one would expect that the sight of a moving object and the sound of a tuning-fork would tend to reenforce one another.

The experiments were begun with observations on the effects of moving objects on the respiration.  In case of a normal rate of 54 respirations per minute sight of the red object caused an increase to 58.  Then the same determination was made for the auditory stimulus.  The tuning-fork usually caused an increase in rate.  In a typical experiment it was from 65 per minute to 76.  The observations prove conclusively that the 500 S.V. sound is heard.  My attention was turned to the difference of the environment of the ear in its relation to hearing.  Apparently frogs hear better when the tympanum is partially under water than when it is fully exposed to the air.

Having discovered by repeated trials about how vigorously and frequently a frog would react to the moving red card, I tried the effect of setting the fork in vibration a half minute before showing the card.  It was at once evident that the sound put the frog on the alert, and, when the object came into view, it jumped at it more quickly and a greater number of times than when the visual stimulus was given without the auditory.  This statement is based on the study of only two animals, since I was unable to get any other frogs that were in the laboratory at the time to take notice of the red cardboard.  This was probably because of the season being winter.  I venture to report the results simply because they were so definite as to point clearly to the phenomenon of the reenforcement of the visual-stimulus reaction by an auditory stimulus.

Concerning the influence of this combining of stimuli on the reaction time, I am only able to say that the reaction to the moving object occurred quicker in the presence of the auditory stimulus.  When the red card was shown it was often several seconds before the frog would notice it and attempt to get it, but when the sound also was given the animal usually noticed and jumped toward the moving card almost immediately.

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Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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