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The critical review of the rats learning pattern XYX and its transfer to novel stimuli is presented. Corballis claims that human infants and cotton top tamarins, if confronted with the same kind of task, may have used a subset of stimuli to solve the rule discrimination. Rats learning that XYX was the reinforced sequence may have matched the identity of the first and last stimulus (X), ignoring the interposed element (Y), and that this would be sufficient to discriminate XYX from YYX or YXX. Rats in each of the three groups were behaving on the basis of different learning strategies. Corballis challenges the lack of a statistical difference by way of a hypothesized floor effect. Configurable pattern-learning strategies are also ineffective in solving the discrimination. Mammals like rats can acquire rules that imply at least some level of abstraction and are considered to be involved in language learning have implications for any debate on the evolution of language and should be in accordance with an evolutionary perspective of cognition.

Original publication




Journal article


Animal Behaviour

Publication Date