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Comparative Decision Making$
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Thomas R. Zentall and Philip H. Crowley

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199856800

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199856800.001.0001

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A Behavioral Ecology View of Decision Making

A Behavioral Ecology View of Decision Making

Something Old, Something Borrowed, Something New

(p.243) Chapter 9 A Behavioral Ecology View of Decision Making
Comparative Decision Making

Andrew Sih

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with an overview of behavioral ecology, an optimality-based approach to understanding the natural world that shares conceptual landscape with microeconomics. Organisms are assumed to make decisions based on rules-of-thumb such that fitness, often assessed as lifetime reproductive success, is maximized. They identify and evaluate options, picking the high-fitness choice, sometimes playing social games to achieve this. But much behavior is demonstrably suboptimal. One way this suboptimality arises is through constraints associated with individual differences in the way animals make decisions. Consistent tendencies give particular individuals an advantage relative to others in some environments but not all, explaining why animals show such variability in their behavior. A key issue at present is how an organism’s personality and other features might equip it to deal with human-induced rapid environmental change. Perhaps the species most flexible in behavioral and ecological features, or perhaps those already adapted to variable environments, will do best.

Keywords:   behavioral ecology, fitness, optimality, suboptimality, personality, environmental change, lifetime reproductive success, social games

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