Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Timothy A. Shahan


Kerry E. Jordan


Gregory J. Madden


Amy L. Odum


Timothy A. Slocum


Humans and animals often make decisions not in their long-term best interest. In one example, called suboptimal choice, pigeons sacrifice food for food-predictive stimuli. The study of suboptimal choice can reveal insights into the role of reward-predictive stimuli in maladaptive decision-making that characterizes numerous behavioral disorders. However, there is currently little evidence that rats engage in suboptimal choice, thereby raising questions about the species-generality of suboptimal choice. According to the temporal information-theoretic model, developed in Chapter 2, suboptimal choice emerges when pigeons pay more attention to the bits of temporal information conveyed by food-predictive stimuli than the rate of food delivery while making decisions. When there is a long delay to food, more attention is paid to food-predictive stimuli and suboptimal choice emerges in pigeons. Chapter 3 found that rats also engaged in suboptimal choice provided a sufficiently long delay to food. Further, when there is also a long delay to food-predictive stimuli, more attention is paid to the rate of food delivery and optimal choice emerges in pigeons. Chapter 4 found that suboptimal choice in rats was unaffected by delays to food-predictive stimuli. Thus, the processes that govern suboptimal choice are well-described by the temporal information- theoretic model of suboptimal choice for both rats and pigeons, though there might be species-differences in the variables that govern attention to food-predictive stimuli and food itself.



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