Rational RatsCausal Inference and Representation

Aaron P. Blaisdell and Michael R. Waldmann

in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Cognition

Second edition

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780195392661
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Rational RatsCausal Inference and Representation

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



Humans are causal agents par excellence. But what are the psychological processes that have evolved to produce human causal cognition? And which aspects of causal cognition are uniquely human and which are shared with other species? This chapter describes how a computational model of causal inference, causal model theory, can usefully frame these questions and allow the design of experiments that can illuminate the underlying psychological competencies. The model specifies procedures that allow organisms to go beyond the information given to distinguish causal from noncausal covariations. By using this model we assume that organisms such as rats and people have evolved to approximate rational causal inference. The chapter discusses experimental investigations of rat behavior under conditions designed to test the predictions of causal model theory.

Keywords: human causal cognition; rational models; rat behavior; causal maps; causal model theory

Article.  15663 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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