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Journal Article

Trail pheromone does not modulate subjective reward evaluation in Lasius niger ants

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Oberhauser, F. B., Wendt, S., & Czaczkes, T. J. (2020). Trail pheromone does not modulate subjective reward evaluation in Lasius niger ants. Frontiers in Psychology, 11(2515): 555576. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.555576.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-9D55-8
Comparing the value of options is at the heart of economic decision-making. While an option may have an absolute quality (e.g. a food source has a fixed energy content), the perceived value of the option may be malleable. The factors affecting the perceived value of an option may thus strongly influence which option is ultimately chosen. Expectations have been shown to be a strong driver of perceived value in both humans and social insects, causing an undervaluation of a given option if a better option was expected, and an overvaluation if a poorer one was expected. In humans, perceived value can be strongly affected by social information. Value perception in some insects has also been shown to be affected by social information, showing conformism as in humans and other animals. Here, over a series of experiments, we tested whether pheromone trail presence, a social information source, influenced the perceived value of a food source in the ant Lasius niger. We found that the presence of pheromone trails leading to a sucrose solution does not influence food acceptance, pheromone deposition when returning from a food source, drinking time, or frequency of U-turns on return from the food. Two further assays for measuring changes in food acceptance, designed to increase sensitivity by avoiding ceiling effects, also showed no effect of pheromone presence on food acceptance. In a separate study, L. niger have also been found to show no preference for, or avoidance of, odors associated with foods found in the presence of pheromone. We are thus confident that trail pheromone presence does not affect the perceived value of a food source in these ants.