Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Short Communication

Generalization and Tinbergen's four whys

Ken Cheng a1
a1 Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney NSW, 2109, Australia [email protected]


Shepard's exponential law provides a functional explanation of generalization. The account complements the more common mechanistic models. The elegant and powerful analyses answer one of Tinbergen's (1963) four whys of behavior: a benefit conferred on the animal by generalizing in this way. A complete account might address evolutionary and developmental questions in addition to mechanistic and functional ones. [Shepard]