Cognitive Processing

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 77–88

How to reason without words: inference as categorization

Research Report

Abstract

The idea that reasoning is a singular accomplishment of the human species has an ancient pedigree. Yet this idea remains as controversial as it is ancient. Those who would deny reasoning to nonhuman animals typically hold a language-based conception of inference which places it beyond the reach of languageless creatures. Others reject such an anthropocentric conception of reasoning on the basis of similar performance by humans and animals in some reasoning tasks, such as transitive inference. Here, building on the modal similarity theory of Vigo [J Exp Theor Artif Intell, 2008 (in press)], we offer an account in which reasoning depends on a core suite of subsymbolic processes for similarity assessment, discrimination, and categorization. We argue that premise-based inference operates through these subsymbolic processes, even in humans. Given the robust discrimination and categorization abilities of some species of nonhuman animals, we believe that they should also be regarded as capable of simple forms of inference. Finally, we explain how this account of reasoning applies to the kinds of transitive inferences that many nonhuman animals display.

Keywords

Animal cognition Categorization Learning Reasoning Similarity 

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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceCognitive Science Program, Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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