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Causal Reasoning in Rats

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Science  17 Feb 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5763, pp. 1020-1022
DOI: 10.1126/science.1121872

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Abstract

Empirical research with nonhuman primates appears to support the view that causal reasoning is a key cognitive faculty that divides humans from animals. The claim is that animals approximate causal learning using associative processes. The present results cast doubt on that conclusion. Rats made causal inferences in a basic task that taps into core features of causal reasoning without requiring complex physical knowledge. They derived predictions of the outcomes of interventions after passive observational learning of different kinds of causal models. These competencies cannot be explained by current associative theories but are consistent with causal Bayes net theories.

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