Probabilistic decision-making is a general phenomenon in animal behavior, and has often been interpreted to reflect the relative certainty of animals’ beliefs. Extensive neurological and behavioral results increasingly suggest that animal beliefs may be represented as probability distributions, with explicit accounting of uncertainty. Accordingly, we develop a model that describes decision-making in a manner consistent with this understanding of neuronal function in learning and conditioning. This first-order Markov, recursive Bayesian algorithm is as parsimonious as its minimalist point-estimate, Rescorla–Wagner analogue. We show that the Bayesian algorithm can reproduce naturalistic patterns of probabilistic foraging, in simulations of an experiment in bumblebees. We go on to show that the Bayesian algorithm can efficiently describe the behavior of several heuristic models of decision-making, and is consistent with the ubiquitous variation in choice that we observe within and between individuals in implementing heuristic decision-making. By describing learning and decision-making in a single Bayesian framework, we believe we can realistically unify descriptions of behavior across contexts and organisms. A unified cognitive model of this kind may facilitate descriptions of behavioral evolution.
Animal Cognition – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 1, 2017
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