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Learning theory is one of several consequentialist modes of explanation in the social sciences, along with functionalism, expected utility, game theory, and conflict theory. In consequentialist explanations, actions are explained in terms of the outcomes they produce. An obvious problem is that the explanatory logic runs in the opposite direction from the temporal ordering of events. Actions are the explanandum and their outcomes the explanans. This explanatory strategy collapses into teleology unless mechanisms can be identified that bridge the temporal gap. While expected utility theory and game theory posit a forward-looking and analytic causal mechanism, learning theory provides a backward-looking and experiential link.

In forward-looking rationality, the link from actions to their explanatory consequences is the analytical ability of purposive actors to reliably predict the ...

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