More Complex Models of Optimal Behavior among Hunter-Gatherers

  • Robert L. Bettinger
Part of the Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology book series (IDCA)


One problem in evaluating the potential utility of foraging theory in anthropology is that the results of critical behavioral tests are seldom clear-cut. Historically, where optimal models have been applied to real cases (see Chapter 4), the fit between expected and observed behavior has been close enough to satisfy advocates and loose enough to encourage critics. Because alternative theories weigh facts differently, such empirical indeterminacies are unavoidable. Constructive critics of foraging theory have made this a productive area of research. They regard the inevitable mismatches between observed and expected foraging behavior neither as devastating (providing an excuse to ignore such models) nor as uninteresting (to be dismissed as noise reflecting faulty or incomplete data). Rather, the constructive critics of optimal foraging theory see such mismatches as opportunities to develop better models. These alternative models all sacrifice some of the simplicity of explanation that characterizes the foraging models previously discussed by introducing additional assumptions and logical complexity. In each case it is assumed that the loss in elegance is justified by gains in predictive accuracy or in model realism.


Return Rate Prey Population Linear Programming Model Lima Bean Optimal Behavior 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert L. Bettinger
    • 1
  1. 1.University of California, DavisDavisUSA

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