The functional equivalence of two variants of the suboptimal choice task: choice proportion and response latency as measures of value

Abstract

In the suboptimal-choice task, birds systematically choose the leaner but informative option (suboptimal) over the richer but non-informative option (optimal). The task has two variations. In the standard task, the optimal option includes two terminal link stimuli. In the original task, it includes a single terminal link stimulus. Two models, the temporal information account (Cunningham and Shahan, J Exp Psychol Anim Learn Cogn 44:1–22, 2018) and the ∆-∑ hypothesis (González et al., J Exp Anal Behav 113:591–608, 2020), presuppose that these procedures are equivalent, but no formal comparison is available. Here we test whether or not these procedures are functionally equivalent. One group of pigeons was trained with the standard procedure, another group with the original procedure, and a third group was trained with a hybrid of the other two (i.e., the two options were the optimal links of the standard and original procedures). Our findings indicate that the number of terminal link stimuli in the optimal option is inconsequential vis-à-vis choice. Moreover, our findings also indicate that latencies to respond are a sensitive metric of value and choice. As predicted by the Sequential Choice Model, we were able to predict simultaneous choices from the latencies of sequential choices and observed a substantial shortening of latencies during simultaneous choices.

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Funding

Alejandro Macías was supported by the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) Doctoral Grant (438354). Valeria V. González was supported by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) Doctoral Grant (PD/BD/114368/2016).

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Correspondence to Alejandro Macías.

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This study was conducted at the Psychology Research Centre (UID/PSI/01,662/2013) of the University of Minho.

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Macías, A., González, V.V., Machado, A. et al. The functional equivalence of two variants of the suboptimal choice task: choice proportion and response latency as measures of value. Anim Cogn 24, 85–98 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-020-01418-8

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Keywords

  • Suboptimal choice
  • Stimuli
  • Latencies
  • Sequential choice model
  • Pigeon