This workshop aims to promote the emerging synthesis between evolutionary and mechanistic theories of learning and decision making. The goal of this workshop is two fold: First, to better define and characterize the set of problems that make it difficult to generate such a synthesis, and second, to consider research tools and theoretical approaches that can help to study the mechanisms of learning and decision making in light of evolutionary theory.
It is well agreed that behavior is the joint result of inherited rules and mechanisms of learning. However, in the conceptual revolution of modern evolutionary biology a great deal of attention has been addressed to the functionality of overt behavior, by-passing its dependence on learning. For instance, sub-disciplines of behavioral ecology such as optimal foraging, risk sensitivity, mate choice, parental care, and others use the notion of the individual as a fitness maximiser, identifying optimal strategies with the help of such tools as mathematical analysis, simulation, game theory, and stochastic dynamic models. However, most workers ignore the mechanisms of learning that lead individuals to produce behavior. This can be consequential for a few reasons. First, without explicit investigation of how learning can successfully produce the behavior in question one cannot tell if the assumed behavioral strategy set is at all possible. In fact, there is growing body of evidence that the behavior of both humans and animals may deviate from maximization towards behaviors that can be produced by simple learning rules, suggesting that maximization may be significantly constrained by what can be learned. Accordingly, the evolution of behavior may be better studied as the evolution of the learning and decision making mechanisms that produce it. But this is difficult for both practical and philosophical reasons.
Workshop dates
Kfar Blum, Israel, November 7-11, 2010