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Re-assessing causal accounts of learnt behavior in rats

Burgess, Katy V., Dwyer, Dominic M. ORCID: and Honey, Robert Colin ORCID: 2012. Re-assessing causal accounts of learnt behavior in rats. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes 38 (2) , pp. 148-156. 10.1037/a0027266

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Rats received either a common-cause (i.e., A→B, A→food) or a causal-chain training scenario (i.e., B→A, A→food) before their tendency to approach the food magazine during the presentation of B was assessed as a function of whether it was preceded by a potential alternative cause. Causal model theory predicts that the influence of an alternative cause should be restricted to the common-cause scenario. In Experiment 1, responding to B was reduced when it occurred after pressing a novel lever during the test phase. This effect was not influenced by the type of training scenario. In Experiment 2, rats were familiarized with the lever prior to test by training it as a potential cause of B. After this treatment, the lever now failed to influence test responding to B. In Experiment 3, rats given common-cause training responded more to B when it followed a cue that had previously been trained as a predictor of B, than when it followed another stimulus. This effect was not apparent in rats that received causal-chain training. This pattern of results is the opposite of that predicted by causal model theory. Thus, in three experiments, the presence of an alternative cause failed to influence test responding in manner consistent with causal model theory. These results undermine the application of causal model theory to rats, but are consistent with associative analyses.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Publisher: American Psychological Association
ISSN: 1939-2184
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2022 10:03

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