Is behavioural flexibility evidence of cognitive complexity? How evolution can inform comparative cognition

Interface Focus 7 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Behavioural flexibility is often treated as the gold standard of evidence for more sophisticated or complex forms of animal cognition, such as planning, metacognition and mindreading. However, the evidential link between behavioural flexibility and complex cognition has not been explicitly or systematically defended. Such a defence is particularly pressing because observed flexible behaviours can frequently be explained by putatively simpler cognitive mechanisms. This leaves complex cognition hypotheses open to ‘deflationary’ challenges that are accorded greater evidential weight precisely because they offer putatively simpler explanations of equal explanatory power. This paper challenges the blanket preference for simpler explanations, and shows that once this preference is dispensed with, and the full spectrum of evidence—including evolutionary, ecological and phylogenetic data—is accorded its proper weight, an argument in support of the prevailing assumption that behavioural flexibility can serve as evidence for complex cognitive mechanisms may begin to take shape. An adaptive model of cognitive-behavioural evolution is proposed, according to which the existence of convergent trait–environment clusters in phylogenetically disparate lineages may serve as evidence for the same trait–environment clusters in other lineages. This, in turn, could permit inferences of cognitive complexity in cases of experimental underdetermination, thereby placing the common view that behavioural flexibility can serve as evidence for complex cognition on firmer grounds.

Links

PhilArchive

External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

There is more to biological behavior than causation and control.Mark A. Krause - 2001 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (6):1065-1065.
Climate, culture and the evolution of cognition.Peter J. Richerson & Robert Boyd - 2000 - In Celia Heyes & Ludwig Huber (eds.), The Evolution of Cognition. MIT Press. pp. 329--45.
Behavioural flexibility: a neglected issue in the ecological and evolutionary literature.Daniel Sol - 2003 - In Simon M. Reader & Kevin N. Laland (eds.), Animal Innovation. Oxford University Press. pp. 63--82.
Culture in whales and dolphins.Luke Rendell & Hal Whitehead - 2001 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (2):309-324.
Animal consciousness.Majid Beshkar - 2008 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (3):5-33.
Environmental variability and primate behavioural flexibility.Simon M. Reader & Katharine MacDonald - 2003 - In Simon M. Reader & Kevin N. Laland (eds.), Animal Innovation. Oxford University Press.
Animal Minds: Beyond Cognition to Consciousness. [REVIEW]L. Kemmerer - 2001 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 22 (4):475-478.

Analytics

Added to PP
2017-05-14

Downloads
487 (#36,639)

6 months
107 (#34,260)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Irina Mikhalevich
Rochester Institute of Technology