Can Kangaroo Rats Reason? An Inquiry into the Ecology of Logical Inference
Through a series of carefully designed experiments with Kangaroo Rats (Dipotomys mirriami), Melissa’s Cognitive Science Senior Honors Thesis will test her hypothesis that these rodents’ capacity to perform “transitive inference” tasks constitutes true reasoning and relies on the same neural structures as less abstract forms of reasoning. A long history of philosophical thought views human reason as unique in and apart from nature. In contrast, evolutionary theory suggests that our reasoning abilities are based on the requirements of the natural environment in which they evolved and, furthermore, that there should be a continuity between our capacities and those of other animals. By increasing our understanding of the neural basis of logic in Kangaroo Rats, Melissa’s project will contribute to illuminating our broader understanding of the nature of cognition.
- Mentor: Professor Lucy Jacobs, Psychology