Signal detection: applying analysis methods from psychology to animal behaviour

Sumner, C.J. ORCID: 0000-0002-2573-7418 and Sumner, S., 2020. Signal detection: applying analysis methods from psychology to animal behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. ISSN 0080-4622

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Abstract

Conspecific acceptance thresholds (CAT) [1], which have been widely applied to explain ecological behaviour in animals, proposed how sensory information, prior information and the costs of decisions determine actions. Signal detection theory ([2]; SDT), which forms the basis of CAT models, has been widely used in psychological studies to partition the ability to discriminate sensory information from the action made as a result of it. In this article we will review the application of SDT in interpreting the behaviour of laboratory animals trained in operant conditioning tasks, and then consider its potential in ecological studies of animal behaviour in natural environments. Focusing on the nestmate recognition systems exhibited by social insects, we show how the quantitative application of signal detection theory has the potential to transform acceptance rate data into independent indices of cue sensitivity and decision criterion (also known as the acceptance threshold). However, further tests of the assumptions underlying SDT analysis are required. Overall, we argue that SDT, as conventionally applied in psychological studies, may provide clearer insights into the mechanistic basis of decision making and information processing in behavioural ecology.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
Creators: Sumner, C.J. and Sumner, S.
Publisher: The Royal Society
Date: 18 May 2020
ISSN: 0080-4622
Identifiers:
NumberType
10.1098/rstb.2019-0480DOI
1287447Other
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 05 Feb 2020 16:43
Last Modified: 29 May 2020 09:16
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/39173

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