WIPS - Caroline Stone, Washington University in St. Louis

Title: "Prerequisite to What?: Construct Validity in Comparative Psychology"

Abstract: In a 2016 study Ari and D’Agostino extend the mirror self-recognition (MSR) task to manta rays, and claim that manta rays demonstrate prerequisite behavior for self awareness. In this paper, I argue this claim actually has a higher evidential burden than claiming manta rays have the capacity for self awareness. This is due to the theoretical assumptions required in order to take a set of behavior as prerequisite to a cognitive capacity across multiple species. I offer up two ways of understanding prerequisite behavior: constitutively or non-constitutively. Based on either understanding, researchers who claim some behavior in a species is prerequisite behavior must extend a cognitive model or a developmental/evolutionary model of the capacity. Because they must make additional theoretical commitments about the cognitive capacity in question, inferences to prerequisite behaviors require more evidence than inferences to the actual cognitive capacity.