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Behav Processes. 2010 Feb;83(2):213-21. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2009.12.011. Epub 2009 Dec 21.

People's study time allocation and its relation to animal foraging.

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Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, United States.


In this article we suggest a relation between people's metacognitively guided study time allocation strategies and animal foraging. These two domains are similar insofar as people use specific metacognitive cues to assist their study time allocation just as other species use cues, such as scent marking. People decline to study items that they know they already know, just as other species use a win-shift strategy - avoiding already visited and depleted patches - in foraging. People selectively study the easiest as-yet-unlearned items first, before turning to more difficult items just as other species take the 'just right' size and challenge of prey-the so-called Goldilocks principle. People use a stop rule by which they give up on one item and turn to another when the returns diminish just as others species use a stop rule that guides shifting from one patch to another. The value that each item is assigned on the criterion test, if known during study, influences which items people choose to study and how long they study them just as knowledge of the nutritional or energy value of the food influences choices and perseverance in foraging. Finally, study time allocation strategies can differ in their effectiveness depending upon the expertise of the student just as some species forage close to optimally while others do not.

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