Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Application of Learning Principles for Antiterrorism?

Students who have enrolled in Theories and Principles of Learning (PSYC 324) undoubtedly remember the amount of time spent covering classical and operant conditioning, and one goal of that class is to see how basic principles of learning can be applied to everyday life.  There are countless examples of learning theory that can be applied to all aspects of our lives.  Bettering education, understanding processes involved in drug addiction, improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities, and studying the factors involved in problem gambling can all be better understood by applying basic principles of learning.  A recent article on the website for the Israel National News reports that researchers are now using trained mice in the fight against terrorists.  By training these rodents to respond to various scents that are associated with bomb-making materials, these researchers hope to use this system to help identify security threats.  According to the article "...the firm claims it conducted a successful experiment in a Tel Aviv shopping center in December 2009, in which 22 explosive charges were planted on people entering the mall, or in objects they carried. All 22 charges were identified by the mice."  Time will tell whether this turns out to be a viable means for detecting terrorist activities.  Successful or not for this purpose, however, this is a clear example of learning applications at work.