For the authors' responses to comments similar to those expressed here by Balsam & Drew, please see: M. Domjan, B. Cusato, & R. Villarreal (2000). Extensions, elaborations, and explanations of the role of evolution and learning in the control of social behavior. BBS 23(2):269–82. [Authors' Response to first round of commentary.].
The conceptual and investigative tools for the analysis of social behavior can be expanded by integrating biological theory, control systems theory, and Pavlovian conditioning. Biological theory has focused on the costs and benefits of social behavior from ecological and evolutionary perspectives. In contrast, control systems theory is concerned with how machines achieve a particular goal or purpose. The accurate operation of a system often requires feed-forward mechanisms that adjust system performance in anticipation of future inputs. Pavlovian conditioning is ideally suited (...) to subserve this function in behavioral systems. Pavlovian mechanisms have been demonstrated in various aspects of sexual behavior, maternal lactation, and infant suckling. Pavlovian conditioning of agonistic behavior has been also reported, and Pavlovian processes may likewise be involved in social play and social grooming. Several further lines of evidence indicate that Pavlovian conditioning can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of social interactions, thereby improving their cost/benefit ratio. We extend Pavlovian concepts beyond the traditional domain of discrete secretory and other physiological reflexes to complex real-world behavioral interactions and apply abstract laboratory analyses of the mechanisms of associative learning to the daily challenges animals face as they interact with one another in their natural environments. Key Words: aggression; biological theory; control theory; feed-forward mechanisms; learning theory; nursing and lactation; Pavlovian conditioning; sexual behavior; social behavior; social grooming; social play. (shrink)
Reactions to the target article included requests for extensions and elaborations of the schema we proposed and discussions of apparent shortcomings of our approach. In general, we welcome suggestions for extension of the schema to additional kinds of social behavior and to forms of learning other than Pavlovian conditioning. Many of the requested elaborations of the schema are consistent with our approach, but some may limit its generality. Many of the apparent shortcomings that commentators discussed do not seem problematic. Our (...) schema encourages a broad view of the behavioral consequences of Pavlovian conditioning – including learned modifications of responding to the unconditioned stimulus. Costs and benefits addressed by our schema are the long-range reproductive consequences of learning – not the immediate reinforcing consequences of particular conditioned responses. Our approach allows the evolution of learning to yield maladaptive behavior and can be extended to characterize dynamic social interactions. We clarify that ours is not a homeostatic model involving ideal set points, and we clarify and defend our application of Pavlovian concepts to the analysis of social play. (shrink)
This paper presents a computational model of the way humans inductively identify and aggregate concepts from the low-level stimuli they are exposed to. Based on the idea that humans tend to select the simplest structures, it implements a dynamic hierarchical chunking mechanism in which the decision whether to create a new chunk is based on an information-theoretic criterion, the Minimum Description Length (MDL) principle. We present theoretical justifications for this approach together with results of an experiment in which participants, exposed (...) to meaningless symbols, have been implicitly encouraged to create high-level concepts by grouping them. Results show that the designed model, called hereafter MDLChunker, makes precise quantitative predictions both on the kind of chunks created by the participants and also on the moment at which these creations occur. They suggest that the simplicity principle used to design MDLChunker is particularly efficient to model chunking mechanisms. The main interest of this model over existing ones is that it does not require any adjustable parameter. (shrink)
Domjan, Cusato & Villarreal's target article is reviewed in the context of historical difficulty for learning studies in discriminating between learned and unlearned components of behavior. The research surveyed in the target article meets the criterion of differentiating between some learned and the unlearned aspects of social behavior, with Pavlovian conditioning shown repeatedly as a route by which reproductive and aggressive behavior is modulated.