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Both human and nonhuman decision-makers can deviate from optimal choice by making context-dependent choices. Because ignoring context information can be beneficial, this is called a "less-is-more effect." The fact that organisms are so sensitive to the context is thus paradoxical and calls for the inclusion of an ecological perspective. In an experiment with starlings, adding cues that identified the context impaired performance in simultaneous prey choices but improved it in sequential prey encounters, in which subjects could reject opportunities in order to search instead in the background. Because sequential prey encounters are likely to be more frequent in nature, storing and using contextual information appears to be ecologically rational on balance by conditioning acceptance of each opportunity to the relative richness of the background, even if this causes context-dependent suboptimal preferences in (less-frequent) simultaneous choices. In ecologically relevant scenarios, more information seems to be more.

Original publication

DOI

10.1126/science.1209626

Type

Journal article

Journal

Science

Publication Date

18/11/2011

Volume

334

Pages

1000 - 1002

Keywords

Animals, Appetitive Behavior, Behavior, Animal, Choice Behavior, Cues, Decision Making, Feeding Behavior, Food, Memory, Models, Biological, Starlings