Pinkston, J.W., Ratzlaff, K.L., Madden, G.J. & Fowler, S.C. (2008).
An inexpensive infrared detector to verify the delivery of food pellets.
Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 90, 249-255.
The reproducibility of experimental outcomes depends on consistent control of independent variables. In food-maintained operant performance, it is of utmost importance that the quantity of food delivered is reliable. To that end, some commercial food pellet dispensers have add-on attachments to sense the delivery of pellets. Not all companies, however, offer such add-ons. Aside from availability, cost and temporary reduction in throughput may be a problem for smaller labs. The present paper outlines our recent development of a simple, inexpensive infrared device to detect and confirm the delivery of pellets. The in-line construction of the detector routes the falling pellet through a barrel so that is passes between an infrared emitter and receiver. The circuitry was designed to be compatible with all commercially available behavioral measurement systems, and so may be retrofit to any existing system. Our tests with the detector so far have shown that it is 100% accurate in detecting pellet delivery. The individual unit cost is approximately 25 dollars. The low cost and versatility of the device offer an easy method to ensure the integrity of food delivery in operant settings.
Key words: pellet, detection, infrared, reliability