Thursday, December 4, 2008

Visit to the Faculty of Agriculture, Rehovot, Israel

Today I visited the Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University in Rehovot. My host, Dr. Yaacov Lensky, came came to the faculty in the 1950s both as a student and then professor and retired in 1997. His focus was research relating to bee biology and beekeeping methods. He provided a report of these activities on his departure.

His successor, Dr. Sharoni Shafer, continues the tradition as noted on the faculty's present web site, including behavioral and pollination ecology. Also included are cognitive, ecological, and genetic aspects of decision making in bees. Choice under uncertainty. Evaluation of floral rewards by honey bees. Instrumental insemination of honey bee queens and selection for pollination of commercial crops. Honey bee nutrition. Colony management for improved crop pollination.

Dr. Lensky used high technology during his time to look at cellular ultrastructure and use of sophisticated chemistry detection techniques to ferret out the role of honey bee pheromones. Dr. Sharoni carries on this tradition, and has designed a unique, automatic device that both trains bees using their proboscis extension reflex or PER, providing information on decision-making.

Predicting Risk-Sensitivity in Humans and Lower Animals: Risk as Variance or Coefficient of Variation

Elke U. Weber
Columbia University - Management & Psychology

Sharoni Shafir
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Ann-Renee Blais
Defense Research and Development Canada

Psychological Review, Vol. 111, pp. 430-445, 2004


In this paper, we examine the determinants of risk-sensitivity exhibited by humans and other animals. Our dependent measure is the proportion of respondents who choose a sure option over a risky option with equal expected value. We present a meta-analysis of human risk-preference data and compare it to the results of a similar meta-analysis of animal data by Shafir (2000). Both sets of data show that the coefficient of variation (CV), a relative measure of risk per unit of return, significantly predicts choices across a broad range of decision situations. In those situations where the CV can be compared to outcome variance, a more traditional (absolute) measure of risk, the CV outperforms variance as a predictor of risk sensitivity. This is especially true when decision makers (humans, or animals foraging for food) acquire information about choice outcomes and their variability experientially and over time, as demonstrated in an experiment in which we attempted to put students into a risky learning and decision making situation comparable to the experiential information acquisition in risky foraging choice tasks in animal experiments.

The town of Rehovot is known as a city of science and culture with many high technology start up companies and is a stop on the historically important railway line. It also hosts the world famous Weizmann Institute of Science and an interesting museum revealing the activities of a local Kibbutz that secretly manufactured ammunition in the support of the war for independence.

On another note, take a look at the San Diego Bug Alert blog.

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