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Behavioral Investment Theory: A New Framework for Mind and Behavior

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1 Behavioral Investment Theory: A New Framework for Mind and Behavior
BIT is the idea that the nervous system evolved as a computational control center that computes the animal’s behavior on an energy investment value system built via evolution and learning.

2 BIT: An Example Crows on the west coast of Canada feed on whelks, which are a type of shellfish. The crows crack the shells of the whelks by picking them up and dropping them onto the rocks below. BIT predicts that animals will expend the least amount of behavioral energy necessary to achieve the needed outcome, which in this case is a cracked shell that provides access to food. Researchers calculated the amount of energy required by the crows to lift the whelk to the point that optimizes the likelihood that the shell would break. If the crow does not lift the whelk high enough it will require several drops, yet flying it higher would result in the unnecessary expenditure of energy. The calculations found that the optimal expenditure of energy would be achieved by flying the shellfish to approximately five meters and indeed this was very close to the heights the birds actually dropped the whelks from.

3 Key BIT Principles The first BIT principle is that, like all organisms, animals must solve the problem of energy management. Behavior is work and it must yield a favorable energy input:output ratio. This is the thermodynamic principle.

4 Key BIT Principles The second BIT principle is that the nervous system is an information processing system that coordinates the behavior of the animal as a whole and computes the expenditure of behavioral energy on cost-to-benefit ratio. This is the computational control principle.

5 Key BIT Principles The third principle is that genes that tended to build behavioral investment systems that expended behavioral energy in a manner that positively covaried with inclusive fitness were selected for, genes that failed to do so were selected against. Thus, inherited tendencies toward the behavioral expenditure of energy should be a function of ancestral inclusive fitness. This is the Darwinian principle of behavior.

6 Key BIT Principles The fourth principle of BIT is that, in ontogeny, behavioral investments that effectively move the animal toward animal-environment relationships that positively covaried with ancestral inclusive fitness are selected for (i.e., are reinforced), whereas behavioral investments that fail to do so are extinguished. This is the Skinnerian principle.

7 Principles 3 & 4 of BIT suggest the current behavioral investments of an animal can be understood as a function of the two vectors of phylogeny and ontogeny

8 What Does BIT Do? It provides a clear theoretical framework for understanding how mind evolves out of life. Likewise, it provides a framework for unifying the general mind sciences.

9 The central premise that organizes BIT have recently been argued in two books.
“Motile life [had to contain] certain elements. It had to be able to move away from harmful energy sources and toward beneficial ones…We may consider differential responsiveness to pertinent energies as the foundation upon which all progressive steps have been based…” “Evolutionary processes have crafted intelligence systems that are fundamentally designed to acquire, manage, and direct energetic resources toward the maintenance of life processes and the attainment of life-stage specific goals.”

10 BIT Ultimately Combines Five Prominent Brain-Behavior Paradigms into One Unified Framework

11 BIT can be thought of as a Cognitive1-Behavioral2, Bio3-Physical4 Systems5 Theoretic6 Approach to the Science of Psychology 1 2 3 4 5 6

12 BIT Merges Cognitivism and Behaviorism into a new philosophy of Mental Behaviorism
“The philosophical position that I am advocating can be characterized as mental behaviorism (MB). The mental behaviorist answers Skinner’s (1990) question, “Can psychology be the science of mind?” with the answer, “Yes, so long as mind is defined as a particular type of behavior.” The key, then, is defining the specific subset of behaviors that make up the construct of mind and are of interest to psychologists. In accordance with both the ToK System and Skinner’s three layers of selection, the proper subject matter of psychology is animal behavior mediated by the nervous system that produces a functional effect on the animal—environment relationship. Thus a beaver building a dam, a rat pressing a bar, and a depressed person making a suicide attempt are all psychological behaviors. A subatomic particle bouncing off the nucleus of an atom, a cell metabolizing a sugar molecule, and an animal falling out of a tree are all behaviors, but they are not behaviors that are of interest to a psychologist.” From Psychology Defined

13 BIT also links psychology to physics
A further advantage of BIT is that it is consilient with the physical sciences. As illustrated by the ToK, energy is the most fundamental substance in the universe and can be thought of as the ultimate common denominator. Physicists define energy as the capacity to do work (e.g., Gribbin, 1998). In accordance with the second law of thermodynamics, animals are viewed as behavioral investors that must work to maintain animal-environment relationships conducive to survival and reproductive success. The focus of the BIT on efficient energy expenditure links psychology with chemistry and physics, as well as biology.

14 Additional BIT Concepts
Behavior is conceptualized as being computed on a cost to benefit ratio Animals can work to increase benefits or cut costs The mammalian nervous system is organized around two broad behavioral systems: Behavioral Activation and Behavioral Inhibition Systems

15 The Two Broad Neuro-Behavioral Systems
Behavioral Activation Behavioral Inhibition Orients toward approach goals Expend energy to acquire resource Focus on “benefit” side of behavioral equation Positive affect Positive reinforcement Left prefrontal Orients toward avoidance goals Conserve acquired resource Focus on cost/loss/threat Negative affect Punishment and its avoidance (negative reinforcement) Right prefrontal

16 A Useful Heuristic that Emerges Out of BIT:
P - M = E P= perception of where you currently are in relation to achieving some need/goal M= motivation/memory, an internal representation of some goal structure based on genetics and prior learning E= emotion, which stems from the discrepancy between where one is and where one desires to be in relation to a particular need/goal.

17 BIT has been used to develop an integrated schematic of the mind

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