In 1966, psychologist Dr. Garcia studied a leaned behavior called “taste aversion”. His experiment was later called the “bright, noisy, tasty water study” by some psychologists.

He started out with three conditional stimuli that were given to rats simultaneously. The stimuli were contained in an area with bright light, a clicking sound, and saccharine water. There were also two unconditional stimuli given to the two separate control groups, a shock of electricity for one group and illness in the form of poison or X-rays for the other.

Many psychologists of the time would expect that the rats would then hate bright light, noise, AND saccharine, but that was not the case. The shocked group only avoided the light and the noise, and they did not associate the shock with the water. The ill rats, on the other hand, did not associate their illness with the noise or light. These rats only avoided the water, thus “taste aversion”.

This experiment was rebuked by many psychologists of the time because they assumed stimuli were stimuli. Garcia could not find a credible psychology journal to publish his findings because they all assumed, “Hey man, you messed up somewhere… your facts are way off.” He resorted to paying for his study get published, and once other scientists recreated the experiment, Garcia’s experiment was finally accepted. Not all stimuli form the same associations. This makes sense for biological reasons. If an animal continues to eat a poisonous food, it will most certainly die. However if rats had a more developed cortex, they might also learn to stop eating in bright, noisy places like I have stopped eating at KFC… Humans can associate illness with restaurants that have made us sick. It should also be noted that Garcia’s theory falls apart when drugs are involved. Taste aversion doesn’t seem to work for cigarettes, alcohol, or other addictive substances.

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