Mycological Rationality: Heuristics, Perception and Decision-Making in Mushroom Foraging


How do mushroom foragers make safe and efficient decisions under high degrees of uncertainty, or deal with the genuine risks of misidentification and poisoning? This article is an inquiry into ecological rationality, heuristics, perception, and decision-making in mushroom foraging. By surveying 894 Finnish mushroom foragers with a total of 22,304 years of foraging experience, this article illustrates how socially learned rules of thumb and heuristics are used in mushroom foraging. It illustrates how traditional foraging cultures have evolved precautionary principles to deal with uncertainties and poisonous species, and how foragers leverage both simple heuristics and complex cognitive strategies in their search for, and identification of, mushrooms. Foragers also develop selective attention through experience. The results invite us to consider whether other human foraging cultures might use heuristics similarly, how and why such traditions have culturally evolved, and whether early hunter-gatherers might have used fast and frugal heuristics to deal with uncertainty.

Preprint, PsyArXiv.