Do Choice Tests Really Test Choice?

Martel, V. and Boivin, G. (2011). "Do Choice Tests Really Test Choice?", Journal of Insect Behavior, 24(5), pp. 329-336. doi : 10.1007/s10905-011-9257-9  Access to full text


Animals are faced with resources that differ in quality and the choice made by an individual depends on several physiological, behavioral and ecological factors. Behavioral ecology studies often use choice tests to determine preference for food, mate, oviposition site and other resources. However, the methodologies used to test animal choice vary considerably, making comparisons difficult and questioning what is measured. We propose here to distinguish the apparent choice, defined as the resource used by an animal, from the true choice, where the measured choice has to respond to three criteria: 1- the exploitation of the resource is non-random, 2- the chooser makes the same choice even in the absence of a differential response by the resource and 3- all resources are responded to, even in the absence of choice. Examples of experimental design that distinguish apparent from true choice are provided.

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