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Signal Detection and Decision Theory

  • When positive and negative signals overlap, mistakes in responding to the signals are inevitable. For example, you cannot decrease the number of "missed detections" without increasing the "false positives."
  • The utility of responding to any particular signal can be modeled by a function incorporating three types of signal parameters: the distribution of the signals, the relative abundance of the signals, and the costs/benefits of the four payoffs.
  • These signal parameters must be taken into account by an animal when deciding how to respond to the signals.
  • Changing a signal parameter changes the utility of responding to a particular signal.

Stimuli Discrimination Learning

  • When trained to respond to a stimulus, and then presented with a range of stimuli including the training stimulus, many animals will "generalize" and respond to some of the new stimuli that are close to the training stimulus.
  • Animals trained to respond to a stimulus and to not respond to a nearby stimulus, when presented with a range of stimuli, will shift their peak response away from the negative stimulus, so that it is not centered on the positive stimulus.

A Signal Detection Theory Interpretation of Peak Shift

  • Stimuli can be thought of as signals.
  • The "peak shift" is predicted by the utility function based on the parameters of signal detection.
  • Peak shifts away from the negative signal occur when the cost of making mistakes is increased, either by manipulating the payoffs, or by increasing the overlap of the two signals.

Bumblebee Research

  • Like many other animals, bumblebees will generalize from a trained signal to a range of nearby signals.
  • The peak shift phenomenon has almost never been studied in invertebrates (such as insects).
  • Bumblebees displayed the predicted peak shift when the relative abundance of the positive signal was lowered, and when the payoff for correct detection was lowered. Both changes increase the cost of mistakes.

End of Bumblebee Signal Detection module.


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