Information-Seeking, Learning and the Marginal Value Theorem: A Normative Approach to Adaptive Exploration


Daily life often makes us decide between two goals: maximizing immediate rewards (exploitation) and learning about the environment so as to improve our options for future rewards (exploration). An adaptive organism therefore should place value on information independent of immediate reward, and affective states may signal such value (e.g., curiosity vs. boredom: Hill & Perkins, 1985; Eastwood et al. 2012). Here, we augment the classic serial foraging scenario to more explicitly reward the development of knowledge. We develop a formal model that quantifies the value of information in this setting and how it should impact decision making, paralleling the treatment of reward by the marginal value theorem (MVT) in the foraging literature. We then present the results of an experiment designed to provide an initial test of this model, and discuss the implications of this information-foraging framework on boredom and task disengagement.

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