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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Prospective and Retrospective Learning in Honeybees


We focus on non-elemental forms of learning in honeybees in order to answer the question of whether retrospective learning can be found in an insect. We analyze three different forms of learning: category learning, rule learning and backward blocking. We provide examples showing that honeybees demonstrate these three forms of learning and propose that causal retrospection underlies them to different extents. We argue that an elemental associative account explains category learning whereas rule learning may require retrospection. Backward blocking, on the other hand, admits interpretations based on prospective learning. Consequently, because animals, including honeybees, solve these three types of problems, distinguishing between species on the basis of these capacities is inappropriate.

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