Transitive inference in animals: Reasoning or conditioned associations?
Allen (Colin)
Source: Hurley (Susan) & Nudds (Matthew) - Rational Animals?
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

    It is widely accepted that many species of non-human animals appear to engage in transitive inference, producing appropriate responses to novel pairings of non-adjacent members of an ordered series without previous experience of these pairings. Some researchers have taken this capability as providing direct evidence that these animals reason. Others resist such declarations, favouring instead explanations in terms of associative conditioning. Associative accounts of transitive inference have been refined in application to a simple five-element learning task that is the main paradigm for laboratory investigations of the phenomenon, but it remains unclear how well those accounts generalize to more information-rich environments such as primate social hierarchies, which may contain scores of individuals. The case of transitive inference is an example of a more general dispute between proponents of associative accounts and advocates of more cognitive accounts of animal behaviour. Examination of the specific details of transitive inference suggests some lessons for the wider debate.
  1. Transitive inference
  2. Expaining (the appearance of) transitive inference
  3. Reasoning or conditioned associations?
  4. Reflections on animal cognition


Part II: Rational versus associative processes, Chapter 7

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