8 A.M.

Towards a 'comparative' Comparative Psychology

- Alex Kacelnik-

University of Oxford, UK

In his Nobel Prize address Sidney Brenner said “We are drowning in a sea of data and starving for knowledge”. To some extent, new and powerful technologies have paradoxical effects on many scientific fields, and comparative psychology is not immune. Our comparative element is waning, partly because we don’t know what is fair to compare between species, and partly because technologies tempt us to collect more data than we can sensibly interpret. As a partial antidote, I will discuss the comparison of some psychological processes across distant species, in a quest for principles that may serve to integrate mechanistic and adaptive interpretations of why organisms do what they do. Among my examples I will touch lightly on state-dependent valuation learning, how costs affect valuation, how alternative actions compete for expression, whether information per se can be reinforcing, and the emergence of intelligence.

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