Skip to main content

Data from: Causal reasoning in rats' behaviour systems

Cite this dataset

Bowers, Robert Ian; Timberlake, William (2018). Data from: Causal reasoning in rats' behaviour systems [Dataset]. Dryad.


Conceiving of stimuli and responses as causes and effects, and assuming that rats acquire representational models of causal relations from Pavlovian procedures, previous work by Causal Model Theory proponents attempted to train rat subjects to represent Light as a cause of both Tone and food. By these assumptions, with formal help from Bayesian Networks, self-production of the Tone should reduce expectation of alternative causes, including Light, and their effects, including food. Reduced feeder-directed responding to the Tone when self-produced has been taken as evidence for a general causal reasoning capacity among rats involving mental maps of causal relations. Critics have rejoined that response competition can explain these effects. The present research replicates the key effect, but uses continuous and finer-grained measurement of a broader range of behaviours. Behaviours not recorded in previous studies contradict both prior explanations. Even results cited in support of these explanations, when measured in finer detail and continuously over longer periods, show patterns not expected by either view, but supportive of a specific-process approach with attention to motivational factors. Still, the abstract prediction from Bayesian Networks holds, providing a potentially complementary normative analysis. Behaviour systems theory provides firmer framing for such theories than representational-map alternatives.

Usage notes