Tasting the unexpected : disconfirmation of expectations leads to lower perceived food value in an invertebrate

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2018
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Czaczkes, Tomer J.
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To make sensible decisions, both humans and other animals must compare the available options against a reference point-either other options or previous experience. Options of higher quality than the reference are considered good value. However, many perceptible attributes of options are value-neutral, such as flower scent. Nonetheless, such value-neutral differences may be part of an expectation. Can a mismatch between the expectation and experience of value-neutral attributes affect perceived value? Consumer psychology theory and results suggest it can. To test this in a non-human animal, we manipulated a value-neutral aspect of a food source-its taste-while keeping its absolute value-its sweetness-the same. Individual ants (Lasius niger) were allowed to drink either lemon- or rosemary-flavoured 1 M sucrose. After three successive visits to the food, we switched the taste in the last, fourth, visit to induce a disconfirmation of expectations. In control trials, ants received the same taste on all four visits. Disconfirmed ants showed lower food acceptance and laid less pheromone on the way back to the nest, even though the molarity of the food was unchanged. As ants recruit nest-mates via pheromone depositions, fewer depositions indicate that the ants valued the food less. Thus, an expectation of value-neutral attributes can influence the perceived value of a resource. Such influences of value-neutral variables on value perception may affect how animals interact with and exploit their environment, and may contribute to phenomena such as flower constancy.

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570 Biowissenschaften, Biologie
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associative learning, expectation disconfirmation, flower constancy, irrationality, value perception, incentive contrasts
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ISO 690OBERHAUSER, Felix B., Tomer J. CZACZKES, 2018. Tasting the unexpected : disconfirmation of expectations leads to lower perceived food value in an invertebrate. In: Biology Letters. Royal Society of London. 2018, 14(9), 20180440. ISSN 1744-9561. eISSN 1744-957X. Available under: doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2018.0440
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@article{Oberhauser2018Tasti-51494,
  year={2018},
  doi={10.1098/rsbl.2018.0440},
  title={Tasting the unexpected : disconfirmation of expectations leads to lower perceived food value in an invertebrate},
  number={9},
  volume={14},
  issn={1744-9561},
  journal={Biology Letters},
  author={Oberhauser, Felix B. and Czaczkes, Tomer J.},
  note={Article Number: 20180440}
}
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