Animal choice behavior and the evolution of cognitive architecture

Science  30 Aug 1991:
Vol. 253, Issue 5023, pp. 980-986
DOI: 10.1126/science.1887231


Animals process sensory information according to specific computational rules and, subsequently, form representations of their environments that form the basis for decisions and choices. The specific computational rules used by organisms will often be evolutionarily adaptive by generating higher probabilities of survival, reproduction, and resource acquisition. Experiments with enclosed colonies of bumblebees constrained to foraging on artificial flowers suggest that the bumblebee's cognitive architecture is designed to efficiently exploit floral resources from spatially structured environments given limits on memory and the neuronal processing of information. A non-linear relationship between the biomechanics of nectar extraction and rates of net energetic gain by individual bees may account for sensitivities to both the arithmetic mean and variance in reward distributions in flowers. Heuristic rules that lead to efficient resource exploitation may also lead to subjective misperception of likelihoods. Subjective probability formation may then be viewed as a problem in pattern recognition subject to specific sampling schemes and memory constraints.

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