Marília Carvalho

Marília Carvalho
Integrated Member
Cognition Team

Marilia Carvalho has been involved in a diverse set of projects dealing mainly with context effects on animal timing and decision making. Her timing research with pigeons revealed a contrast effect on a temporal production task. Other research with standard psychophysical protocols unraveled how temporal memory depends on context and yielded a Spencean hypotheses wherein context effects derive from the interaction of temporal representations. Recently, her growing interest in functional approaches has driven her research to seemingly irrational behavior of different species to understand how nonhumans value rewards according to the context. Her work on the ‘inequity aversion’ effect in capuchin monkeys, a form of irrationality induced by social context, proposed to explain it by behavioral contrast. Other research on the ‘less-is-better’ effect, a preference for a relatively more enjoyable option that is still less profitable, tests boundary conditions set by some leading accounts of the effect. Another project devotes to starlings’ preference for contextually richer rewards that are, however, objectively poorer. The broad concern is a puzzle: If animals evolved to optimize fitness currencies (e.g., food), why is their behavior suboptimal, even irrational, depending on the context?

Main 5 publications

Rocha, A. P., Carvalho, M., Tavares, S., & Tonneau, F. (2021). Negative behavioral contrast in capuchin monkeys (Sapajus sp.). The Psychological Record, 71(1), 133-141. doi: 10.1007/s40732-020-00404-3
Carvalho, M., Dos Santos, C., Soares, C., & Machado, A. (2019). Meliorating the suboptimal-choice argument. Comparative Cognition and Behavior Reviews, 14, 25-32. doi: 10.3819/CCBR.2019.140003
Carvalho, M., Machado, A., Vasconcelos, M. (2016). Animal timing: A synthetic approach. Animal Cognition, 19, 707-732. doi: 10.1007/s10071-016-0977-2
Carvalho, M., Machado, A., & Tonneau, F. (2016). Learning in the bisection task: Relative or absolute? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 42, 67-81. doi: 10.1037/xan0000089
Carvalho, M., Machado, A., & Vasconcelos, M. (2015). Context effects in temporal differentiation: Some data and a model. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 28. ISSN: 2168-3344. Retrieved from: