Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Means-End Reasoning

  • Anastasia KrasheninnikovaEmail author
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1539-2



Broadly speaking means-end reasoning is concerned with finding means for achieving goals (Pollock 2002). More specifically, it involves the deliberate and planned execution of a chain of actions to achieve a goal and occurs in situations where an obstacle (e.g., a distance between the subject and a desirable item, person) preventing the achievement of the goal must initially be removed (Willatts 1999).


In everyday life, we are regularly facing situations which require elaborate sequences of mediating actions to reach a distant goal at the end. For example, imagine a person opening a drawer to take a key to unlock a storeroom to get a ladder needed to reach the door to an out-of-reach vitrine where there is a candy box that can be opened to get some sweets. As this hypothetical problem-solving sequence illustrates (modiefied from Santos et al 2005), the individual steps within a sequence are often separated...

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Behavioural Ecology and Evolutionary GeneticsMax-Planck-Institute for OrnithologySeewiesenGermany
  2. 2.Max-Planck Comparative Cognition Research GroupTenerifeSpain

Section editors and affiliations

  • Dawson Clary
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ManitobaWinnipegCanada