The drivers of heuristic optimization in insect object manufacture and use

Natasha Mhatre*, Daniel Robert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
282 Downloads (Pure)


Insects have small brains and heuristics or 'rules of thumb' are proposed here to be a good model for how insects optimize the objects they make and use. Generally, heuristics are thought to increase the speed of decision making by reducing the computational resources needed for making decisions. By corollary, heuristic decisions are also deemed to impose a compromise in decision accuracy. Using examples from object optimization behavior in insects, we will argue that heuristics do not inevitably imply a lower computational burden or lower decision accuracy. We also show that heuristic optimization may be driven by certain features of the optimization problem itself: the properties of the object being optimized, the biology of the insect, and the properties of the function being optimized. We also delineate the structural conditions under which heuristic optimization may achieve accuracy equivalent to or better than more fine-grained and onerous optimization methods.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1015
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2018


  • Baffling behavior
  • Heuristics
  • Insect cognition
  • Object manufacture
  • Objective function
  • Optimization


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