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Jessica Krueger's picture

Better late than never...

In class, we arbitrarily decided that a choice constituted a selection between two options which were for all intents and purposes equal. What I tried (and apparently failed) to get across in class is that there is no way for any two "choices" to be absolutely the same: even temporal arrangement can constitute a history effect significant enough to alter the "reinforcing" capability of one behavioral consequence over another.

The slug who will not withraw when chewing is actually a pretty neat example of the above phenomenon. While foraging, and not chewing, there is nothing to support the probocis extending behavior, or rather, nothing to make such an extension with its while. There are significant chances for injury from predation, however, so with no reason to keep one's nose to the grindstone, withdrawing the mouth becomes the most "adaptive" manuever. When there is food, however, the schedule shifts - there is now a very good reason to leave one's proboscis out there, so there is a very good reason to evolve a CPG which can override a stretch-relfex input. So while the tapping scientist may control all he can to keep his nose-boppings topographically equivalent, they will never be the same to the snail because the contexts are different.

Further in class, someone mentioned how we can come to decisions when two options have the same probability of reward. This equivocation is supposed to be us weighing the options and deciding on the superior selection. I would argue that instead what we're witnessing is a search for that one critical aspect which would make one decision superior to another. As time mounts, the context changes, and eventually some characteristic would become significant enough to drive the "selection" one way or another. Adding time pressure to the system alters the context, and altering the context alters the choices - even if they hypothetically could be the same for a moment, the context would eventually change them in such a manner that one would appear "better" than the other.

Talking about making a decision always comes from an observer's point of view, even when we're viewing our own behavior. I don't think animals have that perspective with regard to themselves or others. Could the I-function be a heavily-specified homeostatic mechanism for detecting subtle shifts in our environmental contexts to help us behave in (presumably) more adaptive ways?

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