We’ve already touched on the fact that the zombie brain must have at least some limited capacity to learn, or the undead wouldn’t even be able to cross the street. Now a study from the California Institute of Technology may shed light on difference between learning in humans and zombies.
CalTech finds that humans use a complex combination of two thought processes to navigate through their world: 1) model-free learning, and 2) model-based learning. Domain-b.com explains:
“Model-free learning relies on trial-and-error comparisons between the reward we expect in a given situation and the reward we actually get.”
By contrast, model-based learning is a more complex system whereby the the brain builds a virtual map of the environment to understand different situations.
In simple terms, a model-free thinker sticks with what they know from past experience, and isn’t able to make sudden strategic shifts. It is a limited process when not combined with the higher functioning model-base system.
More research is required, but if zombies are indeed unable to accomplish complex tasks like unlocking doors and using weapons, it may have much more to do with their strict model-free view of the world, than any shortcoming in their physical ability.