2018 Sep 27

Eleanor Caves

Date: 

Thursday, September 27, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Location: 

Room 105 William James Hall

Visual perception in non-human animals: lessons from cleaner shrimp and zebra finches

Eleanor Caves
Postdoctoral Fellow, Duke University

In the early 1900’s, Jakob von Uexküll used the term “umwelt” to describe the perceptual world in which organisms exist and act. In particular, he predicted that different sensory capabilities should result in very different umwelten. Since then, advances in our understanding of sensory physiology have confirmed that animal sensory capabilities are hugely diverse. One challenge we face, however, is that sensory physiology does not directly predict perception. To better understand animals’ perceptual worlds, we can combine studies of visual capability with animal behavior to examine how animals process and respond to sensory stimuli. In this talk, I will outline my work studying visual perception. I will focus first on visual acuity, the ability to perceive detail. From a literature synthesis, I have shown that acuity varies over at least four orders of magnitude in animals with image-forming eyes. Acuity should thus represent a significant influence on perception and an important selective pressure on the visual signals by which some animals communicate. I will then discuss two lines of my research that investigate visual perception in animals: cleaner shrimp and zebra finches. Using the cleaner shrimp and client fish mutualism, I have incorporated measures of visual capability into in situ behavioral observations to examine links between signaling behaviors, visual capabilities, and behavioral outcomes. In zebra finches, I have used behavioral trials combined with knowledge about visual physiology to examine perceptual processing, specifically categorical perception of color.

2018 Oct 04

Dorsa Amir (Yale)

Date: 

Thursday, October 4, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Location: 

Room 105 William James Hall

An uncertainty management perspective on preference and choice: Cross-cultural and developmental evidence

Dorsa Amir
Postdoctoral Fellow, Boston College

While preferences have sometimes been viewed as reflecting inherent traits, in this talk, I will outline an alternative perspective, suggesting that they function as flexible strategies for managing the downside costs of uncertainty. Utilizing a cross-cultural and developmental perspective, I argue that preferences are importantly shaped by early experience with the local socioecological environment. I first present the results of a cross-cultural investigation of risk and time preferences in children from India, Argentina, the United States, and the Ecuadorean Amazon, showing that market integration and related socioecological shifts, which fundamentally reduce the downside costs of uncertainty, lead to the development of more risk-seeking and future-oriented preferences.  I supplement these results with evidence from a large study of American adults, showing that access to resources in early development has persistent effects on preferences into adulthood, such that early deprivation is associated with greater risk-aversion, greater present-orientation, and social preferences that mitigate the costs of uncertainty. These findings suggest that preferences are malleable, with sensitive windows in development for integrating information from the local environment in ways that optimize decision-making.

2018 Oct 25

Roger Levy (MIT)

Date: 

Thursday, October 25, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:00pm

2018 Nov 29

TBD

Date: 

Thursday, November 29, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:00pm