Next, Stanton’s team arranged a test for the raccoons. The researchers placed wooden boxes around Laramie. Each had an open doorway. Just one raccoon could fit through at a time, so other raccoons wouldn’t interrupt. That way, scientists could gather accurate data about each animal.
Two lighted buttons were inside the box. The researchers placed some food behind the buttons to get a raccoon to touch them. Hidden video cameras were set up both outside and inside the boxes. They recorded the animals’ behaviors.
At first, the raccoons could push either button and receive a treat. It was dry dog food. If a raccoon pressed either button 11 times, a more difficult test began. Now only one button would deliver a treat. The raccoons had to learn which button to push. The researchers measured how long each animal took to figure it out.
If a raccoon pressed the correct button 9 out of 10 times, the buttons’ responses would switch. Now only the opposite button would deliver food. The scientists did this “reversal test” to see if the raccoons would change their behavior. Would they realize the change and learn to press the other button? But when testing began, Stanton and her team ran into some trouble.