The Universal law of generalisation

evolution drives learning

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Abstract

When an organism's behaviour produces a reward in one stimulus situation (called S+), it typically exhibits that behaviour in similar but recognisably different situations, the ubiquitous phenomenon of stimulus generalisation. Shepard (1987, Science, 237, 1317-1323) proposed a universal law of generalisation based on functional considerations. The problem for the learner is to decide whether a particular stimulus situation has the same consequences of interest (reward-producing) as S+. The animal has learned that S+ is in 'the consequential region'. The problem is: what is the probability that another stimulus, X, is also in the consequential region? Given a range of assumptions about the consequential region, this probability is an exponential function of the appropriately scaled 'distance' x between X and S+: y - e-kx, a curve concave upward in shape. Data from a number of species in a number of experimental paradigms fit this functional prediction. Especially important are recent data from spatial generalisation in honeybees, the only evidence in an inverterbrate animal. Shepard's law suggests that the probabilistic structure of the world has driven the evolution of learning in diverse animals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages39-39
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2000
EventAustralasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour Conference (27th : 2000) - Sydney
Duration: 27 Apr 200030 Apr 2000

Conference

ConferenceAustralasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour Conference (27th : 2000)
CitySydney
Period27/04/0030/04/00

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The Universal law of generalisation: evolution drives learning'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Cheng, K. (2000). The Universal law of generalisation: evolution drives learning. 39-39. Abstract from Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour Conference (27th : 2000), Sydney, .