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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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The Evolutionary Origins of Causal Cognition

The Evolutionary Origins of Causal Cognition

Learning and Using Causal Structures

Chapter:
(p.111) 6 The Evolutionary Origins of Causal Cognition
Source:
Tool Use and Causal Cognition
Author(s):

Brian J. Edwards

Benjamin M. Rottman

Laurie R. Santos

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199571154.003.0006

This chapter explores the origins of our species' drive to explain the causal world. It begins by reviewing the types of information that humans use to learn causal structures. Specifically, it focuses on two aspects of human causal learning — learning through observed dependences and learning through interventions — that have gained considerable empirical attention in the past few decades. Researchers have argued that these two learning strategies are thought to provide learners with a window into the structure of causal relationships. The chapter then explores whether non-human animals are capable of using similar kinds of information to learn causal structures. It argues that a better approach to studying animals' abilities to learn causal structures might involve incorporating experimental tasks different from the training methods historically used to study animal causal learning. It reviews a set of methods recently employed by developmental psychologists for studying children's causal understanding, which might be reasonably adapted for work with animals. It concludes by discussing recent work which attempts to use just these tasks to explore causal learning in brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus paella) and points out several areas where future work can help resolve unanswered questions regarding the purported uniqueness of human causal explanations.

Keywords:   causal structures, causal learning, observed dependencies, interventions, animal learning, capuchin monkeys

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