Biological and artificial cognition: what can we learn about mechanisms by modelling physical cognition problems using artificial intelligence planning techniques?

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Do we fully understand the structure of the problems we present to our subjects in experiments on animal cognition, and the information required to solve them? While we currently have a good understanding of the behavioural and neurobiological mechanisms underlying associative learning processes, we understand much less about the mechanisms underlying more complex forms of cognition in animals. In this study, we present a proposal for a new way of thinking about animal cognition experiments. We describe a process in which a physical cognition task domain can be decomposed into its component parts, and models constructed to represent both the causal events of the domain and the information available to the agent. We then implement a simple set of models, using the planning language MAPL within the MAPSIM simulation environment, and applying it to a puzzle tube task previously presented to orangutans. We discuss the results of the models and compare them with the results from the experiments with orangutans, describing the advantages of this approach, and the ways in which it could be extended.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2723-2732
Number of pages10
JournalRoyal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences
Issue number1603
Publication statusPublished - 2012