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.

Related Articles


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 November 22, 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 November 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
100-Year-Old Woman Sees Ocean for First Time

100-Year-Old Woman Sees Ocean for First Time

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) Ruby Holt spent most of her 100 years on a farm in rural Tennessee, picking cotton and raising four children. She saw the ocean for the first time thanks to her assisted living center and a group that grants wishes to the elderly. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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