Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Authors: Guayasamin, Olivia Lenhardt
Advisors: Couzin, Iain D
Rubenstein, Daniel I
Contributors: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department
Keywords: Attention
Decision Making
Human Behavior
Social Learning
Subjects: Behavioral sciences
Animal sciences
Quantitative psychology
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Attention is a cognitive resource that facilitates the perception, prioritization, andprocessing of meaningful information in a complex world. In natural environments attention is always split between guiding goal-driven actions and remaining vigilant for rapid environmental changes and potential threats. In the animal behavior literature, a well-known example is maintaining social vigilance while simultaneously foraging for resources. However, our understanding of how attention and other cognitive mechanisms shape behavior and learning during social foraging scenarios is limited. This is because it remains incredibly difficult to reliably quantify the amount, timing, and location of animal attention under natural conditions. Therefore, the goal of this dissertation is to use humans as a model system to demonstrate the fundamental importance of understanding how attention moderates learning and performance in complex social environments. In the first chapter, I present an overview of animal social learning and argue that mechanism-neutral social learning strategies (SLSs) no longer provide a sufficient theoretical framework for the field. Chapter 2 describes the experimental methods used throughout this dissertation, introducing human eye tracking and developing a seminaturalistic visual foraging paradigm. In Chapter 3, these methods are used to demonstrate that greater search difficulty increase attentional demands and has broad, negative effects on foraging performance. As attention is a limited resource, these results strongly question the feasibility of remaining socially vigilant while completing difficult foraging tasks. Therefore, in Chapter 4 I sought to empirically determine whether a limited attention framework or the “copy when costly” SLS better predicted patterns of social information use and its effects on foraging performance. The results were striking, supporting the limited attention framework showing that foraging difficulty determined whether individuals could attend to social information, adapt to its quality, and benefit from its presence. Finally, in the last chapter I investigated how the types of attentional control evoked by different presentations of social information could influence the ability to simultaneously forage and remain socially vigilant, demonstrating the necessity of understanding and anticipating the attentional control mechanisms and cognitive loads evoked by the specific tasks in divided-attention experimental designs.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Guayasamin_princeton_0181D_13571.pdf5.01 MBAdobe PDFView/Download

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.