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Pete Trimmer (Senior Teaching Fellow)

Pete Trimmer

I am a behavioural scientist with a strong interest in evolutionary psychology, of humans and other animals. I research the evolution of learning, decision-making and physiological processes, using a mix of analytical and computational techniques.
Much of my work relates to the principles of decision-making, including understanding the effects of emotional processes from a functional perspective. The work exposes the evolutionary logic of how seemingly sub-optimal behaviour can make sense, and identifying conditions under which rational learning and decision-making would, or would not evolve.
My work has included showing why the placebo effect should evolve, modelling speed-accuracy trade-offs in mammals, identifying conditions under which economically rational (e.g., transitive) decisions would not be favoured by natural selection, modelling various state-dependent scenarios and showing impacts of state on learning, identifying conditions under which various biases (e.g., optimism) or traits (e.g., depression) are likely to emerge, showing that sub-optimal learning rules should evolve under particular conditions, modelling the co-evolution of bet-hedging traits (in both animals and plants), and showing that the well-known predictions of signal detection theory are misleading -- to the point of being reversed -- in many biological situations.
Some of these projects and findings are summarised on the Research page of my Homepage.
If we have overlapping interests, please get in touch: Pete dot Trimmer at warwick dot ac dot uk
Contact Details

Representative Publications:

  • Trimmer, P.C., Barrett, B.J., McElreath, R., Sih, A. (2019) Rapid environmental change in games: complications and counter-intuitive outcomes. Scientific Reports 9, 7373, 1-6.
  • Mobbs, D., Trimmer, P.C., Blumstein, D.T., Dayan, P. (2018) Foraging for foundations in decision neuroscience: Insights from ethology. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 19, 419-427.
  • Trimmer, P.C., Ehlman, S.M., McNamara, J.M., Sih, A. (2017) The erroneous signals of detection theory. Proc R Soc B 284(1865), 20171852.
  • Trimmer, P.C., Ehlman, S.M., Sih, A. (2017) Predicting behavioural responses to novel organisms: state-dependent detection theory. Proc R Soc B 284(1847), 20162108.
  • Trimmer, P.C. (2016) Optimistic and realistic perspectives on cognitive biases. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 12, 37-43.
  • Trimmer, P.C., Higginson, A.D., Fawcett, T.W., McNamara, J.M., Houston, A.I. (2015) Adaptive learning can result in a failure to profit from good conditions: implications for understanding depression. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health. Vol 1, 123-135.