Most people think before making decisions. As it turns out, so do bees. In this week's issue of Nature, Israeli researchers show that when making decisions, people and bees alike are more likely to gamble on risky courses of action - rather than taking a safer option - when the differences between the various possible outcomes are easily distinguishable. When the outcomes are difficult to discern, however, both groups are far more likely to select the safer option - even if the actual probabilities of success have not changed.
The findings by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University help shed light on why people are inclined to choose certainty when differences between potential outcomes - such as paybacks when gambling or returns on financial investments - are difficult to discern.
In tests with 50 college students, subjects chose between two unmarked computer buttons. Pushing one of the buttons resulted in a payoff of 3 credits with 100% certainty, while pushing the other led to a payoff of 4 credits with an 80% certainty - though participants only learned these payoffs through trial and error as they flashed on screen. Test subjects were required to make 400 such decisions each, and tended to choose the risky strategy when payoffs were represented as simple numbers (i.e. "3 credits" and "4 credits"). The results were similar when the numerals 3 and 4 were replaced with easily distinguishable clouds of 30 and 60 dots. But when the numerals were replaced with clouds of 30 or 40 dots - making it much more difficult to distinguish between the two - subjects veered towards the more certain outcome.
The researchers subjected honeybees to similar trials, using the bees' sense of smell and 2 µl drops of sugar solution payoffs of varying concentrations. The researchers first tested the bees with payoffs for risky and safe alternatives at 10% and 5% sugar concentrations, respectively. In a second experiment, the payoffs were a less-easy-to-discriminate-between 6.7% and 5%, and in a third experiment, the payoff in both alternatives was 6.7%. Bees were required to make 32 such decisions, and were given a choice between two smells, each presented twice for one-second each, in an alternating sequence. The bees tended towards the risky strategy only when their choice was easily discernable, paralleling their human counterparts.
According to Professor Ido Erev of the Technion Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, some practical implications of this research can be seen in an analysis of the values placed on rule enforcement in the workplace. The results, he said, suggest that: (1) consistent and constant rule enforcement is necessary, since workers are more likely to ignore risks - if they have done so before without punishment; (2) workers are likely to be supportive of enforcement, since they initially plan to obey many of the rules (wearing safety goggles, for instance) they end up violating; and (3) severe penalties that are not always enforced are not likely to be effective, but gentle, consistently enforced rewards and punishments can be.
"The similar responses by humans and bees demonstrates that this decision-making process happens very early in evolution," said Erev. "The results suggest that this is a very basic phenomenon shared by many different animals."
The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel's leading science and technology university. Home to the country's winners of the Nobel Prize in science, it commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine. The majority of the founders and managers of Israel's high-tech companies are alumni. Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with 22 offices around the country.
Kevin Hattori | newswise
Unique genome architectures after fertilisation in single-cell embryos
30.03.2017 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering