An agent’s actions can be influenced by external factors through the inputs it receives from the environment, as well as internal factors, such as memories or intrinsic preferences. The extent to which an agent’s actions are “caused from within”, as opposed to being externally driven, should depend on its sensor capacity as well as environmental demands for memory and context-dependent behavior. Here, we test this hypothesis using simulated agents (“animats”), equipped with small adaptive Markov Brains (MB) that evolve to solve a perceptual-categorization task under conditions varied with regards to the agents’ sensor capacity and task difficulty. Using a novel formalism developed to identify and quantify the actual causes of occurrences (“what caused what?”) in complex networks, we evaluate the direct causes of the animats’ actions. In addition, we extend this framework to trace the causal chain (“causes of causes”) leading to an animat’s actions back in time, and compare the obtained spatio-temporal causal history across task conditions. We found that measures quantifying the extent to which an animat’s actions are caused by internal factors (as opposed to being driven by the environment through its sensors) varied consistently with defining aspects of the task conditions they evolved to thrive in.

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