Cognitive Phenotypes and the Evolution of Animal Decisions

Tamra C. Mendelson, Courtney L. Fitzpatrick, Mark E. Hauber, Charles H. Pence, Rafael L. Rodríguez, Rebecca J. Safran, Caitlin A. Stern, Jeffrey R. Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Despite the clear fitness consequences of animal decisions, the science of animal decision making in evolutionary biology is underdeveloped compared with decision science in human psychology. Specifically, the field lacks a conceptual framework that defines and describes the relevant components of a decision, leading to imprecise language and concepts. The ‘judgment and decision-making’ (JDM) framework in human psychology is a powerful tool for framing and understanding human decisions, and we apply it here to components of animal decisions, which we refer to as ‘cognitive phenotypes’. We distinguish multiple cognitive phenotypes in the context of a JDM framework and highlight empirical approaches to characterize them as evolvable traits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)850-859
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • choice
  • cognitive phenotype
  • discrimination
  • judgment and decision making
  • preference
  • recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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  • Cite this

    Mendelson, T. C., Fitzpatrick, C. L., Hauber, M. E., Pence, C. H., Rodríguez, R. L., Safran, R. J., Stern, C. A., & Stevens, J. R. (2016). Cognitive Phenotypes and the Evolution of Animal Decisions. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 31(11), 850-859.