Foraging, exploration, or search? On the (lack of) convergent validity between three behavioral paradigms.

Recently it has been suggested that individual humans and other animals possess different levels of a general tendency to explore or exploit that may influence behavior in different contexts. In the present work, we investigated whether individual differences in this general tendency to explore (exploit) can be captured across three behavioral paradigms that involve exploration–exploitation trade-offs: A foraging task involving sequential search for fish in several ponds, a multiarmed bandit task involving repeatedly choosing from a set of options, and a sequential choice task involving choosing a candidate from a pool of applicants. Two hundred and sixty-one participants completed two versions of each of the three tasks. Structural equation modeling revealed that there was no single, general factor underlying exploration behavior in all tasks, even though individual differences in exploration were stable across the two versions of the same task. The results suggest that task-specific factors influence individual levels of exploration. This finding causes difficulties in the enterprise of measuring general exploration tendencies using single behavioral paradigms and suggests that more work is needed to understand how general exploration tendencies and task-specific characteristics translate into exploratory behavior in different contexts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)