York University (1975)
I am currently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta (Canada). I am the former Director of the Centre for Experimental Sociology, and retired Adjunct Professor in the Department of Neuroscience (Medicine). I am also the Director of the Behavioural Research Unit of the Metabolic and Cardiovascular Diseases Laboratory (MCVD Lab) in the Alberta Diabetes Institute.
the present time I continue as a Fellow of the American Psychological
Association, an award given for my significant contributions to the
discipline of psychology. In the past, I received the Faculty of Arts
Research Award (Professor) for outstanding research and scholarship, and was
nominated for the Gordon Kaplin University Award for lifetime achievement in
research (especially my work on activity anorexia). My research interests are
broad and varied, but I have emphasized the experimental analysis of choice
and preference, the effects of reward on intrinsic motivation, conditioned
taste aversion induced by physical activity, a bio-behavioral model of
activity anorexia, and evolution, environment and obesity.
I am working on the problem of infertility of female JCR:LA-cp rats genetically prone for obesity and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Currently, we are investigating the metabolic and reproductive benefits to obese/PCOS prone rat pups raised on a regimen of food restriction and 4 h of daily exercise (wheel running). The research is conducted in my laboratory (Behavioral Research Unit) in the Biological Sciences Building at the University of Alberta. My co-investigators are Abdoulaye Diané, Donna Vine, Jim Russell and Spence Proctor (Director MCVD Lab) of the Alberta Diabetes Institute. This research is an extension of my research focused on the interrelationship of genotype and feeding environment for obesity and anorexia.
Prior caloric restriction increases survival of pre-pubertal obese- and PCOS-prone rats exposed to a challenge of time-limited feeding and physical activity. Journal of Applied Physiology (with Diané, Vine, Heth, Russell, and Proctor).
Hypothalamic proopiomelanocortin (POMC) down regulation after weaning is associated with hyperphagia-induced obesity in JCR rats over-expressing neuropeptide Y. American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism (with Diané, Russell, Heth, Vine, Richard, and Proctor).
When a novel taste is paired with illness or nausea, the taste is subsequently avoided—an effect known as conditioned taste aversion (CTA). If you regularly eat steak but one day eat steak with sauce béarnaise and subsequently become sick, perhaps because of the flu, you are likely to dislike sauce béarnaise and avoid any foods with this taste. In 2000, we (Sarah Salvy, Don Heth and myself) began a systematic series of experiments on CTA induced by physical activity (wheel running) using laboratory rats. That is, we conditioned tastes by pairing them with wheel running rather than the flu-induced illness. The idea came from our work on activity anorexia and earlier experiments by a research team at Memorial University, Newfoundland. To shorten the story, we found that when wheel running followed the taste, animals avoided solutions containing the taste and the more they ran the greater the aversion. We also discovered that the animals developed a preference for tastes that came after bouts of wheel running—a conditioned taste preference or CTP. The after-effects of wheel running act as positive reinforcement—relating to activation of the neural reward system—and animals drink more from solutions containing the tastes associated with the rewarding after-effects. Our work along with other researchers in the field suggested that exercise or physical activity has different effects depending on its temporal location with respect to the taste. If exercise comes after the taste, CTA occurs. When physical activity comes before the taste, CTP is induced. These observations suggest that exercise has bivalent effects and it should be possible within the same animal to insert exercise between two tastes, resulting in CTA to the flavor that comes before the physical activity and CTP to the flavor that follows the exercise. In 2011, Christine Dobek, working with Don Heth and myself, showed conclusively that the bivalent effects of wheel running were reliable and did not depend on pre-exposure to wheel running as earlier experiments had suggested. Sarah Salvy, currently a research scientist at the Rand Corporation in California, has extended our findings to humans, showing CTA induced by treadmill running at 80% of maximum heart rate (Havermans, Salvy & Jansen, 2009).
REINFORCEMENT & INTRINSIC MOTIVATION
In a review article published in The Behavior Analyst, Cameron, Banko and Pierce (2001, Vol. 24, pp. 1-44) outlined the claim that rewards have pervasive negative effects on intrinsic motivation but found evidence that these claims are a myth. The article titled, “Pervasive Negative Effects of Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation: The Myth Continues”, has more than 5,000 downloads, and reports a hierarchical meta-analysis of the literature based on 145 studies (the most inclusive meta-analysis to date). The results confirm our 1994 meta-analysis and further specified how rewards could be used effectively in applied settings.
Based on the meta-analysis article, Judy Cameron and I wrote the book Reward and Intrinsic Motivation: Resolving the Controversy (Barnes Garvey Press, 2002: http://www.amazon.com/Rewards-Intrinsic-Motivation-Resolving-Controversy/dp/1593113838). In addition, we received $120,000 as a SSHRC research grant to conduct further experiments on how rewards based on achievement can be used to enhance performance and interest.
I have been extensively involved with the training of graduate students in terms of research for more than 35 years. As an experimental researcher, I was trained using the apprenticeship system and I have carried on this tradition of training with my own students. The basic idea of apprenticeship is that the students work closely with the professor on various research projects and utilize their training in experimental design, computer analyses of results, and communication of results in professional articles. Many of my published articles include graduate students as co-authors. I have supervised or co-supervised more than 50 graduate students' theses and dissertations in the Departments of Sociology, Psychology, Educational Psychology, Physical Education, Medicine and Neuroscience.
In addition, I have served as a member on approximately 60 thesis committees. Many of my students have obtained academic positions and I continue to write to them, see them at conferences, and work on research projects with them. As an example, Terry Belke conducted research with me on the matching law and subsequently went to Harvard University to study with Richard Herrnstein and Gene Heyman. He is currently an associate professor at Mount Allison University and a leading behavioral researcher in the study of wheel running reinforcement, the matching law and behavioral economics. In addition, Sarah-Jeanne Salvy from the University of Quebec at Montreal (Young Scientist Award Winner, 2000) worked with me on experiments concerned with conditioned taste aversion and activity anorexia from 2000-2003. Under my supervision Sarah won the APA Dissertation Award (Division 25) for 2003 and obtained a post-doctoral SSHRC fellowship at the University of Toronto, 2004. Sarah subsequently took a post as an assistant professor in Pediatric Medicine at SUNY (Buffalo) and is now a research scientist at the Rand Corporation in California studying social factors in obesity. Currently, I am co-supervising Abdoulaye Diané’s post-doctoral research (with Spence Proctor) on activity anorexia and obesity, using the JCR obese rat model. Dr. Diané has maintained a highly productive research and publication agenda in my laboratory.
As a final point I wish to mention my contribution to research in the graduate program of Sociology. During my tenure as Associate Chair Graduate, I instituted a one-day conference for graduate student research (Research Day). This conference was implemented to encourage graduate students to prepare for and give professional presentations. Graduate students learn how to stay on topic, select audio-visual material to highlight their presentations, speak with a voice of confidence, and make their points within a circumscribed time limit (10 minutes). Research Day has continued over the years and is now a formal part of our graduate program. In 2001, the Department of Sociology renamed the event in my honor as the W. David Pierce Research Colloquium. Overall, I have made important contributions to graduate research and I continue to view graduate research and education as a central part of my academic interests and career.
Diane, A., Pierce, W.D., Heth, C.D., Russell, J.C., Richard, D., & Proctor, S. (2012) Feeding history and obese-prone genotype increase survival of rats exposed to a challenge of food restriction and wheel Running. Obesity, 20, 1787-1795.
Pierce, W. D., Diané, A., Heth, C. D., Russell, J. C., & Proctor, S. D. (2010) Evolution and obesity: Resistance of obese-prone rats to the challenge of food restriction and wheel running. International Journal of Obesity. 34, 589-592.
Pierce, W.D., Heth, C.D., Owczarczzyk, J.C., Russell, J.C., & Proctor, S.D. (2007). Overeating by young obese-prone and lean rats caused by tastes associated with low energy foods. Obesity, 15, 1969-1979.
Belke, T.W., Pierce, W.D., & Duncan, I.D. (2006) Reinforcement value and substitutability of sucrose and wheel running: Implications for activity anorexia. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 86, 131-158.
Salvy, S., Pierce, W.D., Heth, C.D., & Russell (2004). Taste avoidance induced by wheel running: Effects of backward pairings and robustness of conditioned taste aversion. Physiology and Behavior,82, 303-308.
Belke, T. W., Pierce, W. D., & Jensen, K. (2004). Effect of short-term pre-feeding and body weight on wheel running an responding reinforced by the opportunity to run in a wheel. Behavioural Processes, 67, 1-10.
Pierce, W. D., Sydie, R. A., Stratkotter, R., & Krull, C. (2003). Social concepts and judgments: A semantic differential analysis of the concepts feminist, man and woman. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 27, 338-346.
Cameron, J., & Pierce, W.D. (1997). Rewards, interest and performance: A summary of the experimental literature. American Compensation Association Journal: Perspectives on Compensation and Benefits, Winter, 6-15.
Symbaluk, D., Heth, D., Cameron, J., & Pierce, W. D. (1997). Social modeling, monetary incentives, and pain endurance: The roles of self-efficacy and pain perceptions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 258-269.
Morse, A. D., Russell, J. C., Hunt, T. W. M., Wood, G. O., Epling, W. F., Pierce, W. D. (1995). Diurnal variation of intensive running in food-deprived rats. Canadian Journal of Physiological Pharmacology, 73, 1519-1523.
Wheeler, G. D., McFadyen, S. G., Symbaluk, D., Pierce, W. D., & Cumming, D. C. (1992). Effects of training on in serum testosterone and cortisole levels in wrestlers. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 2, 257-260.
Wheeler, G. D., Singh, M., Pierce, W. D., Epling, W. F., & Cumming, D. C. (1991). Endurance training decreases serum testosterone levels in men without change in LH pulsatile release. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 72, 422-425.
Spetch, M., Belke, T. W., Barnet, R., Dunn, R., & Pierce, W. D. (1990). Suboptimal choice in a percentage-reinforcement procedure: Effects of signal condition and terminal-link length. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 53, 219 -234.
Russell, J. C., Amy, R. M., Manickavel, V., Dolphin, P. J., Epling, W. F., Pierce, W. D., & Boer, D. P. (1989). Prevention of myocardial disease in JCR: LA-corpulent rats by running. Journal of Applied Physiology, 66, 1649-1655.
Belke, T., Pierce, W. D., & Powell, R. (1989). Determinants of choice for pigeons and humans on concurrent-chain schedules of reinforcement. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 52, 97-109.