Animal Learning and Cognition: A Neural Network Approach. Nestor A. Schmajuk. 340 pp. Cambridge University Press, 1997. $44.95.
Questions about the fundamental nature of animal learning and cognition often whet the appetite of the mathematical theorist. The reason, in part, is that psychologists who study learning in animals typically employ well-controlled paradigms, such as classical and operant conditioning, that produce tractable empirical phenomena.
In this new effort, Nestor Schmajuk turns the powerful tools of neural-network modeling to animal learning and cognition. Alhough Schmajuk is not the first or only psychologist to offer network accounts of animal learning, he is among the best and most influential modelers working in the field. He adopts E. N. Sokolov's position that animals construct neural models of environmental events expressly to predict. Discrepancies between the internal predictions generated and the events that actually transpire drive the behavior of the network and any subsequent learning. One important characteristic of Schmajuk's networks is that they can be compared to behavior in real time. He is careful to consider alternative accounts, however, and he provides the reader with ample references, along with well-crafted comparative tables.
This book fully qualifies as a primer for neural-network models of animal cognition, but it does help if you have some background or general expertise in mathematical descriptions. The writing can be terse, and the book is not recommended for the mathematically uninitiated. As a bonus, computer software accompanies the book and allows the reader to explore one of Schmajuk's models in considerable detail.—James S. Nairne, Psychological Sciences, Purdue University
Connect With Us:
Gene therapy and genomic engineering are rapidly burgeoning areas of research. Dr. Charles Gersbach of Duke University sat down with associate editor Katie L. Burke to discuss the history of gene therapy and what we can do now that we couldn’t do even a few years ago.
to view all of our Pizza Lunch Podcasts!
A free daily summary of the latest news in scientific research. Each story is summarized concisely and linked directly to the original source for further reading.
An early peek at each new issue, with descriptions of feature articles, columns,
and more. Every other issue contains links to everything in the latest issue's table of contents.
News of book reviews published in
and around the web, as well as other noteworthy happenings in the world of science books.
To sign up for automatic emails of the
Update and Scientists' Nightstand issues, create an
online profile, then sign up in the
My AmSci area.