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Definition

Vicarious trial and error

Definition (1):

Vicarious trial and error is a behaviorist term to describe the substitution of mental trial and error for physical trial and error in animals that stop at a decision point in a maze. It is an attempt to get around the difficulty that the animals appear to be thinking, a strict taboo to a strict behaviorist.

Definition (2):

When knowing new environments, rats sometimes stop at decision points and watch back and forth over their probable directions as if they were assuming the future result of their actions. This behavior is known as vicarious trial and error (VTE). When the rats become familiar with the environmental configuration, they change this deliberative behavior to habitual behavior, and eventually, VTE disappears.

Thorough research and study have been performed on VTE and spatial navigation in the rat model, but fewer researches have concentrated on humans. Researchers tested those head-scanning human behaviors that they generally show while spatial navigation is as assumable of spatial learning as in the rat. A goal-focused virtual-navigation operation was performed in a symmetric environment by the rats. Spatial learning was evaluated through analyzing the directions, head-orientations, and timings, under deliberative and habitual spatial navigation situations. Researchers found that course or trajectory duration and length reduced with the trial number, indicating that subjects or rats learned the environment’s spatial configuration over trials. IdPhi, a standard metric of VTE also reduced with the trial number, indicating that humans get an advantage from the identical head-orientation scanning behavior like rats at spatial decision-points. The findings show that vicarious trial and error indicates a sign of the spatial learning stage in humans, and can be applied for predicting performance in navigation operations with a high level of accuracy.

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