Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Bell, Robert Wayne, 1931-||Doty, Larry A.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Goldfish; Amnesia; Learning; Psychology of


Evidence has suggested that the amnesia resulting from electro-convulsive shock cannot be attributed to the disruption of the neural trace following a learning experience. Two alternative interpretations have appeared in the literature. One theory implies that the electro-convulsive shock initiates a fear reaction in the subject. This fear reduces mobility and prevents the correct response from appearing in the test for retention. The other alternative approach suggests that the reason for the lack of retention following electroconvulsive shock can be attributed to a counter-conditioning paradigm in which the electroconvulsive shock following learning functions in an aversive manner, thus extinguishing the just-learned response. Most of the above work has been done using mammals as subjects. It was hypothesized that the parameters affecting goldfish are the same as those affecting other species. Additionally, an attempt was made to test the opposing theories concerning electroconvulsive shock. Fifty-six goldfish were used as subjects. Four fish were placed in each cell of a 2x7 factorial design. One dimension of the design was concerned with location, i.e. where the electroconvulsive shock was administered, while the other dimension was concerned with the temporal factor, i.e. the time interval following initial learning in which the electroconvulsive shock was administered. A two-way avoidance shuttle tank was used, each fish receiving 20 initial trials followed by electroconvulsive shock and, 48 hrs. later, 20 additional trials. The results indicated that no initial learning was obtained, thus invalidating the post-electroconvulsive shock data. It was speculated that this failure to learn might be due to extraneous noise created in the laboratory during the course of the experiment; a speculation which led to a second experiment. It is known that a continuous loud noise is stressful to humans. Since goldfish have excellent auditory capacities, the second study suggested that, using goldfish, a continuous loud noise prior to avoidance conditioning may disrupt this conditioning, thereby preventing learning. Three groups of 5 goldfish were used. Two of the groups were subjected to loud noise for 95 hrs. prior to conditioning. Twenty-nine hrs. after the discontinuance of the sound-producing mechanism, 20 avoidance trials were administered to 5 fish. Twenty trials were carried out, using another group, 77 hrs. after the stressor's termination. A third group received no stress, and acted as control. The results indicated that, unlike the control group, which demonstrated a normal learning curve, the fish subjected to auditory stress were prevented from attaining such a curve, an outcome which seems to be time-dependent. From these results, it was assumed that the first study may have been confounded by the noise present in the laboratory.


Includes bibliographical references.


viii, 41 pages




Northern Illinois University

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