“Honey bees selectively avoid difficult choices”

This is the title of a recent paper published on PNAS Nov. 4th 2013.

Scientists demonstrates how honey bees (Apis mellifera) can adaptively alter their behavior in a choice test in response to trial difficulty. Bees preferentially avoid difficult trials and by doing so, improve their success rate. In the paper it is discussed whether this choice involves assessing degree of uncertainty (considered a definition of basic metacognition) or whether this task might be solved by associative mechanisms. To better frame metacognition as an issue for neurobiological investigation, a neurobiological hypothesis of uncertainty monitoring based on the known circuitry of the honey bee brain is proposed.