Information Foraging Across the Life Span: Search and Switch in Unknown Patches

Topics in Cognitive Science 7 (3):428-450 (2015)
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In this study, we used a word search puzzle paradigm to investigate age differences in the rate of information gain and the cues used to make patch-departure decisions in information foraging. The likelihood of patch departure increased as the profitability of the patch decreased generally. Both younger and older adults persisted past the point of optimality as defined by the marginal value theorem, which assumes perfect knowledge of the foraging ecology. Nevertheless, there was evidence that adults were rational in terms of being sensitive to the change in RG for making the patch-departure decisions. However, given the limitations in cognitive resources and knowledge about the ecology, the estimation of RG may not be accurate. Younger adults were more likely to leave the puzzle as the long-term RG incrementally decreased, whereas older adults were more likely to leave the puzzle as the local RG decreased. However, older adults with better executive control were more likely to adjust their likelihood of patch-departure decisions to the long-term change in RG. Thus, age-dependent reliance on the long-term or local change in RG to make patch-departure decisions might be due to individual differences in executive control



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