May 26, 2017

Can natural selection encode Bayesian priors?

Journal of Theoretical Biology
Juan Camilo Ramírez, James A R Marshall

Abstract

The evolutionary success of many organisms depends on their ability to make decisions based on estimates of the state of their environment (e.g., predation risk) from uncertain information. These decision problems have optimal solutions and individuals in nature are expected to evolve the behavioural mechanisms to make decisions as if using the optimal solutions. Bayesian inference is the optimal method to produce estimates from uncertain data, thus natural selection is expected to favour individuals with the behavioural mechanisms to make decisions as if they were computing Bayesian estimates in typically-experienced environments, although this does not necessarily imply that favoured decision-makers do perform Bayesian computations exactly. Each individual should evolve to behave as if updating a prior estimate of the unknown environment variable to a posterior estimate as it collects evidence. The prior estimate represents the decision-maker's default belief regarding the environment variable, i.e., the individual's default 'worldview' of the environment. This default belief has been hypothesised to be shaped by natural selection and represent the environment experienced by the individual's ancestors. We present an evolution...Continue Reading

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Mentioned in this Paper

Cues
Environment
Literature
Dorsal
Simulation
Bayesian Prediction
Probability
Impacts, Environmental
Decision Making, Shared
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