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Rational accounts of animal behaviour? Lessons from C. Lloyd Morgan's Canon

Dwyer, Dominic M. ORCID: and Burgess, Katy V. 2011. Rational accounts of animal behaviour? Lessons from C. Lloyd Morgan's Canon. International Journal of Comparative Psychology 24 (4) , pp. 349-364.

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One particular concern of the 2010 Winter Conference on Animal Learning and Behaviour was the degree to which the behaviours of human and nonhuman animals might be interpreted as the result of the same cognitive mechanisms. Here, we examine three examples in rats (causal-reasoning, sensitivity to the absence of stimuli, and the relationship between effort and reward) where higherorder mental processes might be invoked as explanations of the observed behaviour. In each case we argue that alternative accounts, based on “lower” mental processes, are also consistent with the observed data. On the basis of the principle of parsimony, enshrined as a grounding assumption of comparative psychology in C. Lloyd Morgan’s Canon, the existence of such alternative accounts means that the available evidence does not licence the conclusion that non-human animals display evidence of human-like cognitive processes in these areas.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Additional Information: Pdf uploaded in accordance with publisher's policy at (accessed 28/02/2014).
Publisher: International Society for Comparative Psychology
ISSN: 0889-3667
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 07 May 2023 12:18

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