Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in NEBRASKA SYMPOSIUM ON MOTIVATION 1987, Volume 35: Comparative Perspectives in Modern Psychology, Edited by Richard A. Dienstbier & Daniel W. Leger. Copyright 1988 University of Nebraska Press. Used by permission.


Psychologists have been studying animal learning for about a century. This century of experimental and theoretical work has produced some remarkable successes, particularly in understanding basic conditioning processes. However, these successes are limited in two major ways. First, they have been confined to a narrow domain. Recent research from a variety of settings has demonstrated that animals have mental abilities far beyond what they were given credit for just a few years ago. We must dramatically expand the range of phenomena addressed by the study of animal learning. Second, there has been an almost complete failure to place animal learning in any kind of comparative, evolutionary framework, primarily because of a failure to develop any detailed understanding of how animals use their ability to learn outside the laboratory. Recent developments in psychology and biology are beginning to suggest how this gap may be filled.