Data from: Positive and negative incentive contrasts lead to relative value perception in ants
Wendt, Stephanie et al. (2019), Data from: Positive and negative incentive contrasts lead to relative value perception in ants, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.77q6s30
Humans usually assess things not according to their absolute value, but relative to reference points - a main tenant of Prospect Theory. For example, people rate a new salary relative to previous salaries and salaries of their peers, rather than absolute income. We demonstrate a similar effect in an insect: ants expecting to find low quality food showed higher acceptance of medium quality food than ants expecting medium quality, and vice versa for high expectations. Further experiments demonstrate that these contrast effects arise from cognitive rather than mere sensory or pre-cognitive perceptual causes. Social information gained inside the nest can also serve as a reference point: the quality of food received from other ants affected the perceived value of food found later. Value judgement is a key element in decision making, and thus relative value perception strongly influences which option is chosen and ultimately how all animals make decisions.