Certainty and uncertainty of the future changes planning and sunk costs

Anneke A. Duin, London Aman, Brandy Schmidt, A. David Redish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Many foraging experiments have found that subjects are suboptimal in foraging tasks, waiting out delays longer than they should given the reward structure of the environment. Additionally, theories of decision-making suggest that actions arise from interactions between multiple decision-making systems and that these systems should depend on the availability of information about the future. To explore suboptimal behavior on foraging tasks and how varying the amount of future information changed behavior, we ran rats on two matching neuroeconomic foraging tasks, Known Delay (KD) and Randomized Delay (RD), with the only difference between them being the certainty of the cost of future opportunities. Rats' decision-making strategies differed significantly based on the amount of future certainty. Rats on both tasks still showed suboptimality in decision-making through a sensitivity to sunk costs; however, rats on KD showed significantly less sensitivity to sunk costs than rats on RD. Additionally, on neither task did the rats account for travel and postreward lingering times as heavily as prereward foraging times providing evidence problematic for the Marginal Value Theorem model of foraging behavior. This suggests that while future certainty reduced decision-making errors, more complex decision-making processes unaffected by future certainty were involved and likely produced these decision-making errors within subjects on these foraging tasks. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-486
Number of pages18
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021


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