This experiment is a clear example of latent learning. If this were an operant conditioning learning experiment, the cheese would be put at the end of the maze right from the beginning. The comparison group in this study is steered more towards operant conditioning. Latent learning is when an animal or human observes behaviors from others or works through a situation creating a cognitive map. While the animal or human does not complete the task or imitate behaviors at the time it is learned, they will usually display the behavior or complete the task at a time when there is a reason for the behavior or action. In the case of the rates and the maze, there was no reason to make it to the other side of the maze until they were given a reason to do so.
The chart showing how many errors were made by the rats with no reinforcements, reinforcement after ten days, and reinforcements from the start explain how quickly the rats were able to pick up the pathway from the start of the maze to the end of the maze. The rats that had food at the end of the maze from the beginning showed that as the days went on, the rats made fewer and fewer mistakes in finding their way out of the maze. They had that reinforcement all along giving them a reward to work towards every time they were placed in the maze. They had to learn how to get through the maze however the reward was greater for those rats which drove them to learn the maze to get to the cheese as quickly as possible. The rats that were never given reinforcement also had many mistakes. When compared to the group of rats that were given reinforcement at the end all the time, these rats in the no reinforcement group found their way out of the maze in about the same time as those who had the cheese waiting for them at the end.
The rats that did not have the reinforcement had to work through the process without the piece of cheese at the end. There were quite a bit of mistakes made however, around day 10, those mistakes dropped drastically unlike the rats that had the reinforcement the entire time. During those first 10 days the rats were acclimating itself to the maze and were creating a mental picture of where the dead ends were, where the clear paths were, and the patterns of turns to get to the end of the maze. When the cheese was placed at the end of the maze on day 10 the rats were able to find the end of the maze very quickly with very few mistakes. The rats had learned how to navigate through the maze in those first 10 days making it easier for them to get through it when the cheese was presented at the end.
The proof that this is latent learning as opposed to operant conditioning is that the rats in the group where reinforcement was provided after 10 days were not presented with the cheese from the beginning of the experiment. In addition, there were no measures taken to discourage the rats from hitting dead ends in the maze or making mistakes such as a bell or a loud noise every time a mistake was made. If that were the case then it would be more characteristic of operant conditioning. These rats were given the opportunity to learn the maze, figure out where the dead ends where, which turns were correct, and patterns of moving through the maze to get to the end. They knew how to get to the end of the maze before the cheese was presented however they had no reason to get out of the maze at that time. When the cheese was presented at the end, this gave those rats a reason to get from the start of the maze to the end of the maze with few or no mistakes.