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Tool Use and Causal Cognition$
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Teresa McCormack, Christoph Hoerl, and Stephen Butterfill

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199571154

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199571154.001.0001

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Causal Knowledge in Corvids, Primates, and Children

Causal Knowledge in Corvids, Primates, and Children

More Than Meets the Eye?

Chapter:
(p.89) 5 Causal Knowledge in Corvids, Primates, and Children
Source:
Tool Use and Causal Cognition
Author(s):

Amanda Seed

Daniel Hanus

Josep Call

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199571154.003.0005

Previous experimental work has led several authors to conclude that only humans reinterpret ‘first-order perceptual relations in terms of higher order role-governed relational structures,’ meaning that among other things, non-human animals are not capable of physical reasoning based on abstract, unobservable object properties. Instead they must rely on first-order perceptual information to solve problems. Such an account could approximate behaviour driven by physical knowledge very well if natural selection has pre-prepared the learning animal to attend to perceptual features of the stimulus that are most likely to correlate with its functional properties in the natural environment. This chapter aims to challenge the ‘relational reinterpretation hypothesis’ put forward by Penn et al. (2008) by describing data from several other paradigms aimed at distinguishing between explanations based on surface-level perceptual characteristics and those in which object properties (such as solidity, continuity, weight, and rigidity) are represented at a deeper level of abstraction, where ‘abstract’ means that the information is not equivalent or reducible to concrete, analogue sensory input, but rather has undergone further processing in which meaning is extracted.

Keywords:   first-order perceptual relations, physical reasoning, abstract, object properties, relational reinterpretation hypothesis, perceptual information

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