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Colin Allen (Pitt): “Temporal Binding as a Marker of Causal Cognition in Non Human Animals”
20 October 2020, 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
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Abstract: Temporal binding is the phenomenon in which events related as cause and effect are judged by humans to be closer in time than they actually are (Haggard et al. 2002). Although temporal binding has been studied in humans in connection with explicitly verbalizable statements about causal relationships, we argue that it can also be studied non-linguistically. Our argument depends on describing and theoretically motivating an intermediate level of representation between sensorimotor associations and symbolic representation that we call “supramodal”. This level of representation makes it possible to resist arguments given by some comparative psychologists that animals lack any form of causal understanding because their cognitive capacities are limited to learning sensorimotor associations. Our three-level account opens up the space for experimental investigations that have not been pursued given the prevalent two-level account of human causal understanding that restricts animals to the lower level. We describe the structure of some possible experiments and and consider the implications that would follow from a positive finding of temporal binding in nonhuman animals, Such a finding would provide evidence of explicit awareness of causal relationships and would warrant attribution of supramodal representations that are more abstract than the sensorimotor associations allowed by the lower level of the two-level account.
Colin Allen is Distinguished Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. His main areas of research concern the philosophical foundations of cognitive science and neuroscience.