Integrating niche-related and general process approaches in the study of learning

Behav Processes. 2001 May 3;54(1-3):79-94. doi: 10.1016/s0376-6357(01)00151-6.


For nearly a century the experimental analysis of learning in animals has been divided into niche-related and general-process approaches, each emphasizing different procedures and conceptual strategies. After considering several current forms of rapprochement, I outline evidence for the integrative hypothesis that niche-related learning provides the basis for results in traditional general-process learning paradigms. Although the full ramifications of this view are not developed here, its advantages include: a clearer relation between laboratory and field results; conceptual and pragmatic guidance in developing new paradigms, and applying old ones to different species and circumstances; clarification of the laws, limits, and anomalies in general-process paradigms; and a more efficient path for inter-relating the study of learning with neurophysiology, genetics, and evolution.