I study the evolution of learning and decision-making from a theoretical perspective. I'm interested in how our minds have evolved to make decisions and how strategies can influence perceptions, within and between individuals. My interest is at both the general level (for instance, how traits such as optimism and pessimism are sustained within a population) and at a more detailed level, of how specific interactions occur between different parts of the brain.
The evolution of mental mechanisms is currently a hot-topic, with plenty still to be understood about how functions and mechanisms co-evolve in particular circumstances. I am currently working on this with Tim Fawcett, Andy Higginson and Dave Mallpress, under the leadership of Alasdair Houston and John McNamara.
If you have similar research interests or questions, please contact me.
Trimmer, PC, Houston, AI, Marshall, JAR, Bogacz, R, Paul, ES, Mendl, MT, McNamara, JM (2008) Mammalian Choices: combining fast-but-inaccurate and slow-but-accurate decision-making systems. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 275(1649), 2353–2361. pdf doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.0417
McNamara, JM, Trimmer, PC, Eriksson, A, Marshall, JAR, Houston, AI, (2010) Environmental variability can select for optimism or pessimism. Ecology Letters 14(1), 58-62. pdf doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01556.x
Trimmer, PC, Houston, AI, Marshall, JAR, Mendl, MT, Paul, ES, McNamara, JM (2011) Decision-making under uncertainty: biases and Bayesians. Animal Cognition 14(4), 465-476 pdf doi: 10.1007/s10071-011-0387-4
McNamara, JM, Trimmer, PC, Houston, AI (2012) The ecological rationality of state-dependent valuation. Psychological Review 119, 114-119. pdf doi: 10.1037/a0025958
Houston, AI, Trimmer, PC, Fawcett, TW, Higginson, AD, Marshall, JAR, McNamara, JM (2012) Is optimism optimal? Functional causes of apparent behavioural biases. Behavioural Processes 89, 172-178. pdf doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2011.10.015
Trimmer, PC, McNamara, JM, Houston, AI, Marshall, JAR (2012) Does natural selection favour the Rescorla-Wagner rule? Journal of Theoretical Biology 302, 39-52. pdf
Higginson, AD, Fawcett, TW, Trimmer, PC, McNamara, JM, Houston, AI (2012) Generalized optimal risk allocation: foraging and anti-predator behavior in a fluctuating environment. American Naturalist 180(5),
McNamara, JM, Trimmer, PC, Houston, AI (2012) It's optimal to be optimistic about survival. Biology Letters 8, 516-519. pdf doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0010.
Trimmer, PC, Marshall, JAR, Fromhage, L, McNamara, JM, Houston, AI (2013) Understanding the placebo effect from an evolutionary perspective. Evolution & Human Behaviour 34, 8-15. pdf
Marshall, JAR, Trimmer, PC, Houston, AI, McNamara, JM (2013) On evolutionary explanations of cognitive biases. TREE (in press).
Trimmer, PC & Houston, AI (2013) An evolutionary perspective on information processing. Topics in Cognitive Science (in press).
Trimmer, PC (2013) Optimal behaviour can violate the principle of regularity. Proc R Soc B (in press)
Currently progressing papers on:
Ratemax violation of transitivity, optimality of emotions, learned helplessness, learned depression, the down-sides of placebos, the long-term effect of early experiences, incorporating mental costs into decision-making, and the effect of rapid environmental change on animal behaviour
Prior to becoming a theoretical biologist, I worked in the defence industry for 11 years, analysing aircraft systems and aircrew performance. I've also taught partner dancing and am a qualified masseur.
View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system
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