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Caplab paper - Ricardo Rodriguez PSYC 371 Laboratory in...

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Ricardo Rodriguez PSYC 371: Laboratory in Animal Cognition Paper #2: Project Proposal Causal cognition in Rhesus Macaques: Deriving causal reasoning systems in Macaca Mulatta via exploratory play Cause and effect are an integral part of perceived reality. Human beings and primates seem to demonstrate a tremendous propensity for establishing causal relations, even with incomplete (or absolute lack of) information about the mechanical, biological, or physical underpinnings of any given object relation in question. Several sources posit that one of the most powerful cognitive tools in discerning this relation is the use of intervention (Woodward, 2003; Campbell, 2007). This dynamic manipulation of related systems has been observed as an integral part of exploratory play in human children. Very recently, literature by Schulz and Bonawitz (in press) has suggested that the duration of this exploratory play varies as a function of the degree of prior causal knowledge. In their study, the experimenters gave children either confounded evidence (two levers moved in conjunction to produce an effect) or unconfounded evidence (each lever manipulated individually) about the causal structure of a jack-in-the-box toy. The children were then allowed to play freely with both the familiar object and a novel object for 60 seconds. Children who observed confounded evidence preferentially played with the familiar toy, but children who observed unconfounded evidence played more with the novel toy. Moreover, the children in the confounded-evidence condition successfully disambiguated the confounded evidence during their exploratory play (i.e., manipulating the correct levers). These results suggest that human children recognize when evidence is insufficient to support causal inference, and will actively explore more in these instances. A new study by Edwards et. al. (in preparation) has served to compare the patterns
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of exploratory play in monkeys and humans, asking the same questions about causal cognition from an evolutionary perspective. Edwards, et. al. modified the experimental design done by Schulz and Bonawitz for use with non-linguistic primate subjects, specifically the Rhesus Macaque monkeys found on the Cayo Santiago field site. Using a
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