Animals make a variety of choices, and it is a fair start to assume that the
psychological mechanisms underpinning their choices will be adaptive in the
sense of maximizing their net gain of resources, reproductive opportunities,
predator avoidance and ultimately their fitness.
Even choices that initially appear simple can be complicated because adaptive decisions often involve tradeoffs along multiple dimensions. All other things being equal, we would expectan animal to delay consumption of an immediately available green apple untilit is ripe but not so long that it gets moldy, but all things are rarely equal, and an ideally optimal consumer is only a theoretical abstraction. Implementing
ideally optimal choices may be seen as being tuned to how the fruit matures:
to current temperature and humidity, to present and future needs, to competition with other consumers, etc. These are the complex trade-offs that cognitive
In this chapter we are motivated by the following sorts of questions: What
sorts of information do animals use to make decisions, and what mechanisms
underpin the actions of different animal species in different contexts? Can they
act now to secure an outcome with value in the future, even if it has limited
value in the present? Can they integrate disparate sources of information, and
recognize when they do not have enough information to make a good choice?