Covariation of learning and "reasoning" abilities in mice: Evolutionary conservation of the operations of intelligence

Christopher Wass, Alexander Denman-Brice, Chris Rios, Kenneth R. Light, Stefan Kolata, Andrew M. Smith, Louis D. Matzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Contemporary descriptions of human intelligence hold that this trait influences a broad range of cognitive abilities, including learning, attention, and reasoning. Like humans, individual genetically heterogeneous mice express a "general" cognitive trait that influences performance across a diverse array of learning and attentional tasks, and it has been suggested that this trait is qualitatively and structurally analogous to general intelligence in humans. However, the hallmark of human intelligence is the ability to use various forms of "reasoning" to support solutions to novel problems. Here, we find that genetically heterogeneous mice are capable of solving problems that are nominally indicative of inductive and deductive forms of reasoning, and that individuals' capacity for reasoning covaries with more general learning abilities. Mice were characterized for their general learning ability as determined by their aggregate performance (derived from principal component analysis) across a battery of five diverse learning tasks. These animals were then assessed on prototypic tests indicative of deductive reasoning (inferring the meaning of a novel item by exclusion, i.e., "fast mapping") and inductive reasoning (execution of an efficient search strategy in a binary decision tree). The animals exhibited systematic abilities on each of these nominal reasoning tasks that were predicted by their aggregate performance on the battery of learning tasks. These results suggest that the coregulation of reasoning and general learning performance in genetically heterogeneous mice form a core cognitive trait that is analogous to human intelligence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-124
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


  • Fast mapping
  • Intelligence
  • Learning
  • Mice
  • Phylogenetics
  • Reasoning


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