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Evolution and the Mechanisms of Decision Making$
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Peter Hammerstein and Jeffrey R. Stevens

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780262018081

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262018081.001.0001

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Neuroethology of Decision Making

Neuroethology of Decision Making

Chapter:
(p.81) 6 Neuroethology of Decision Making
Source:
Evolution and the Mechanisms of Decision Making
Author(s):

Geoffrey K. Adams

Karli K. Watson

John Pearson

Michael L. Platt

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262018081.003.0006

A neuroethological approach to decision making posits that neural circuits mediating choice evolved through natural selection to link sensory systems flexibly to motor output in a way that enhances the fit between behavior and the local environment. This chapter discusses basic prerequisites for a variety of decision systems from this viewpoint, with a focus on two of the best studied and most widely represented decision problems. The first is patch leaving, a prototype of environmentally based switching between action patterns. The second is social information seeking, a behavior that, while functionally distinct from foraging, can be addressed in a similar framework. It is argued that while the specific neural solutions to these problems sometimes differ across species, both the problems themselves and the algorithms instantiated by biological hardware are repeated widely throughout nature. The behavioral and mathematical study of ubiquitous decision processes like patch leaving and information seeking thus provides a powerful new approach to uncovering the fundamental design structure of nervous systems.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, decision making, action planning, decision algorithms, computational framework, patch leaving, social information seeking

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