The evolution of conspecific acceptance threshold models

Hannah M. Scharf, Andrew V. Suarez, H. Kern Reeve, Mark E. Hauber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How do organisms balance different types of recognition errors when cues associated with desirable and undesirable individuals or resources overlap? This is a fundamental question of signal detection theory (SDT). As applied in sociobiology, SDT is not limited to a single context or animal taxon, therefore its application can span what may be considered dissimilar systems. One of the applications of SDT is the suite of acceptance threshold models proposed by Reeve (1989), which analysed how individuals should balance acceptance and rejection errors in social discrimination decisions across a variety of recognition contexts, distinguished by how these costs and benefits relatively combine. We conducted a literature review to evaluate whether these models' specific predictions have been upheld. By examining over 350 research papers, we quantify how Reeve's models (Reeve 1989 Am. Nat.133, 407–435 (doi:10.1086/284926)) have influenced the field of ecological and behavioural recognition systems research. We found overall empirical support for the predictions of the specific models proposed by Reeve, and argue for further expansion of their applications into more diverse taxonomic and additional recognition contexts.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20190475
Pages (from-to)20190475
Number of pages1
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1802
StatePublished - Jul 6 2020


  • discrimination
  • recognition
  • signal detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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