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Foraging as sampling without replacement: a Bayesian statistical model for estimating biases in target selection

Clarke, Alasdair and Hunt, Amelia and Hughes, Anna (2022) 'Foraging as sampling without replacement: a Bayesian statistical model for estimating biases in target selection.' PLoS Computational Biology, 18 (1). e1009813-e1009813. ISSN 1553-734X

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Foraging entails finding multiple targets sequentially. In humans and other animals, a key observation has been a tendency to forage in ‘runs’ of the same target type. This tendency is context-sensitive, and in humans, it is strongest when the targets are difficult to distinguish from the distractors. Many important questions have yet to be addressed about this and other tendencies in human foraging, and a key limitation is a lack of precise measures of foraging behaviour. The standard measures tend to be run statistics, such as the maximum run length and the number of runs. But these measures are not only interdependent, they are also constrained by the number and distribution of targets, making it difficult to make inferences about the effects of these aspects of the environment on foraging. Moreover, run statistics are underspecified about the underlying cognitive processes determining foraging behaviour. We present an alternative approach: modelling foraging as a procedure of generative sampling without replacement, implemented in a Bayesian multilevel model. This allows us to break behaviour down into a number of biases that influence target selection, such as the proximity of targets and a bias for selecting targets in runs, in a way that is not dependent on the number of targets present. Our method thereby facilitates direct comparison of specific foraging tendencies between search environments that differ in theoretically important dimensions. We demonstrate the use of our model with simulation examples and re-analysis of existing data. We believe our model will provide deeper insights into visual foraging and provide a foundation for further modelling work in this area.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Humans; Models, Statistical; Bayes Theorem; Appetitive Behavior; Computational Biology; Bias
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2022 17:26
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2022 12:16

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