Sub-optimalities in group foraging and resource competition

Roberts, M. E., & Goldstone, R. L. (2009).  Sub-optimalities in group foraging and resource competition. , Proceedings of the Thirty-First Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society 2371-2377. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Cognitive Science Society.

Previous group foraging research has shown that human groups sub-optimally distribute themselves to resources and display undermatching, with a smaller-than-expected proportion of individuals at the more abundant resource pool. In order to further explore these sub-optimalities, we extended a group foraging paradigm to test three variables: the effects of three resource pools, travel cost between pools, and the size of the pools. Although each condition led to undermatching, the conditions showed significant differences in the extent of undermatching, the frequency of switching between resource pools, the wealth inequality among foragers, and the comparative wealth inequality at different resource pools. The results for the three pool conditions suggest that human groups have difficulty in discriminating the relative value of resource pools. The results for the travel cost conditions indicate that human groups distribute themselves to resources more optimally when individuals can easily switch between pools, which is the opposite of the result found with foraging pigeons. Finally, the results for the pool size conditions indicate that larger pool sizes promote greater undermatching, apparently because individuals inefficiently compete over large areas rather than effectively parceling the pools into smaller, distinct regions.

Download PDF version of this paper