A cybernetic perspective on food protection in rats: Simple rules can generate complex and adaptable behaviour

Many types of animal behaviour, especially seemingly complex social interactions, have been attributed to the existence of complex cognitive mechanisms. Indeed, as specific behaviours are analysed in greater and greater detail, the increasing number of minor variations observed seem to necessitate the operation of increasingly powerful computational devices. An alternate view, inspired by cybernetic theory, is that what is important is not the specific behaviours used by animals, but the goal of the organism in a particular context. When approached in this way, it is possible to deduce simple rules being used by organisms to attain goal states that account for behavioural variation, and importantly, that do not require impossible levels of cognitive power. In this paper, we apply a cybernetic approach to analysing food protective behaviour in rats. We demonstrate that a simple cybernetic rule, rather than complex computation, produces efficient and effective food protective behaviour in rats. © 2011 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Many types of animal behaviour, especially seemingly complex social interactions, have been attributed to the existence of complex cognitive mechanisms. Indeed, as specific behaviours are analysed in greater and greater detail, the increasing number of minor variations observed seem to necessitate the operation of increasingly powerful computational devices. An alternate view, inspired by cybernetic theory, is that what is important is not the specific behaviours used by animals, but the goal of the organism in a particular context. When approached in this way, it is possible to deduce simple rules being used by organisms to attain goal states that account for behavioural variation, and importantly, that do not require impossible levels of cognitive power. In this paper, we apply a cybernetic approach to analysing food protective behaviour in rats. We demonstrate that a simple cybernetic rule, rather than complex computation, produces efficient and effective food protective behaviour in rats. © 2011 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

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