Rapid target foraging with reach or gaze: The hand looks further ahead than the eye
Real-world tasks typically consist of a series of target-directed actions and often require choices about which targets to act on and in what order. Such choice behavior can be assessed from an optimal foraging perspective whereby target selection is shaped by a balance between rewards and costs. Here we evaluated such decision-making in a rapid movement foraging task. On a given trial, participants were presented with 15 targets of varying size and value and were instructed to harvest as much reward as possible by either moving a handle to the targets (hand task) or by briefly fixating them (eye task). The short trial duration enabled participants to harvest about half the targets, ensuring that total reward was due to choice behavior. We developed a probabilistic model to predict target-by-target harvesting choices that considered the rewards and movement-related costs (i.e., target distance and size) associated with the current target as well as future targets. In the hand task, in comparison to the eye task, target choice was more strongly influenced by movement-related costs and took into account a greater number of future targets, consistent with the greater costs associated with arm movement. In both tasks, participants exhibited near-optimal behaviour and in a constrained version of the hand task in which choices could only be based on target positions, participants consistently chose among the shortest movement paths. Our results demonstrate that people can rapidly and effectively integrate values and movement-related costs associated with current and future targets when sequentially harvesting targets.