The work costs of earning food as a determinant of patch leaving

Suzanne H. Mitchell, Jasper Brener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Foraging theorists have long emphasized the role of the energy (work) costs of food items on foraging behavior. However, few experiments have measured this variable or demonstrated that animals are indeed sensitive to work costs. Experiment 1 assessed whether rats (Long-Evans) can use the work costs of food to determine whether a food patch is exhausted. Rats performed a fixed amount of work for each food item (fixed-work [FW] schedule), but food was withheld unpredictably to simulate sudden patch depletion. It was found that rats left patches only when the work costs of unsuccessful searches (giving-up work) exceeded the prevailing work costs of food. The time and response costs of unsuccessful food searches (giving-up time and giving-up responses) were not predictive of patch leaving. Experiment 2 showed how rats regulated work in this paradigm by examining the role of exteroceptive stimuli connected with fulfilling the FW schedule.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-144
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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