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Published in TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences Vol.6, No.1, January 2002. Copyright 2002. Used by permission. Online at


In the October issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Bolhuis and Macphail criticized the functional/evolutionary approach to the neural mechanisms of learning and memory, and concluded that the approach is ‘often misleading and might provide us with the wrong answers’ [1]. Their critique touches on a number of interesting issues, and provides a useful prompt to examine the role of an adaptationist approach to the study of cognition. In their effort to stimulate discussion, however, Bolhuis and Macphail have overstated positions they attribute to ‘neuroecologists’.

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