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The Evolution of Memory Systems$
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Elisabeth A. Murray, Steven P. Wise, and Kim S. Graham

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199686438

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199686438.001.0001

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The reinforcement memory systems of early animals

The reinforcement memory systems of early animals

(p.85) Chapter 3 The reinforcement memory systems of early animals
The Evolution of Memory Systems

Elisabeth A. Murray

Steven P. Wise

Kim S. Graham

Oxford University Press

The reinforcement memory systems evolved early in the history of animals. Through these ancient mechanisms, animals can remember which actions in which circumstances produced benefits or avoided costs (instrumental memories), as well as which contexts, objects, and places were associated with costs or benefits (Pavlovian memories). Surface similarities support a common set of terms and formalisms to describe reinforcement learning of many kinds, but the fact that they depend on a variety of unrelated brain structures and can be established by brainless animals, such as sea anemones, shows that they do not compose a single system or mechanism. As new memory systems emerged during vertebrate evolution, reinforcement learning persisted, but it cannot account for derived aspects of human cognition such as analogical, metaphorical, or relational reasoning, abstract problem-solving strategies, mental time travel, scenario construction, mental trial and error behavior, autobiographical narratives, language, a theory of mind, or explicit (declarative) memory.

Keywords:   animal learning theory, behaviorism, cognition, instrumental conditioning, invertebrate learning, operant conditioning, Pavlovian conditioning, reinforcement learning

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