Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Are Animals As Irrational As Humans?

Date:
November 23, 2004
Source:
Public Library Of Science
Summary:
In a new study, Cynthia Schuck-Paim, Lorena Pompilio, and Alex Kacelnik question whether irrational decisions have been correctly demonstrated in animals. The authors suggest that observed "breaches of rationality" may stem from differences in the physiological state of animals "unwittingly imposed" by experimental design rather than from real irrational decisions.

The European starling, more rational than it seems.
Credit: Photo author: Cynthia Schuck Paim

Animals in the wild are constantly confronted with decisions where to nest, who to mate, where the best forage is. Mainstream models of choice in both economics and biology predict that preferences will be rational, or consistent across contexts, as a result of being motivated by self interest or, in the case of animals, reproductive success. Yet many studies report that when making decisions people often take shortcuts, using cognitive heuristics that may lead to economically irrational decisions, with similar claims now showing up in animal behavior studies.

In a new study, Cynthia Schuck-Paim, Lorena Pompilio, and Alex Kacelnik question whether irrational decisions have been correctly demonstrated in animals. The authors suggest that observed "breaches of rationality" may stem from differences in the physiological state of animals "unwittingly imposed" by experimental design rather than from real irrational decisions.

To test this, the researchers trained European starlings to choose between two rich food sources (called focal options) and one of two poorer "decoys" in different contexts. Schuck-Paim and collaborators show that introducing the decoys resulted in an "irrational" preference only when the decoys were allowed to have an effect on food intake, suggesting that the choice resulted from the birds' energetic state rather than from cognitive mechanisms of choice similar to those used to explain irrationality in human subjects.

Altogether, Schuck-Paim and co-authors argue, these results warn that studies appropriating ideas from other disciplines can introduce confounding effects. Researchers would do well to carefully examine the underlying causes of observed animal behaviors when testing ideas formulated in a nonbiological framework.

###

Citation: Schuck-Paim C, Pompilio L, Kacelnik A (2004) State-Dependent Decisions Cause Apparent Violations of Rationality in Animal Choice. PLoS Biol 2 (12): e402.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library Of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Public Library Of Science. "Are Animals As Irrational As Humans?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 November 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041123113905.htm>.
Public Library Of Science. (2004, November 23). Are Animals As Irrational As Humans?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041123113905.htm
Public Library Of Science. "Are Animals As Irrational As Humans?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041123113905.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) It’s an unusual condition with a colorful name. Kids with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome see sudden distortions in objects they’re looking at or their own bodies appear to change size, a lot like the main character in the Lewis Carroll story. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Scientists have long called choline a “brain booster” essential for human development. Not only does it aid in memory and learning, researchers now believe choline could help prevent mental illness. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans. Now a new treatment using the patient’s own tumor could help slow down its progression and help patients live longer. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins