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

Image credit: Roope Kaaronen


How do mushroom foragers make safe and efficient decisions under 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, this article illustrates how socially learned rules of thumb and heuristics are used in mushroom foraging, and how simple heuristics are often complemented by more complex and intuitive decision-making. The results illustrate how traditional foraging cultures have evolved precautionary heuristics to deal with uncertainties and poisonous species, and how foragers develop selective attention through experience. The study invites 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 simple heuristics to deal with uncertainty.

In Judgment and Decision Making
Roope O. Kaaronen
Roope O. Kaaronen
Postdoctoral researcher

Researcher of sustainable cultural evolution, collective behaviour change and decision-making under uncertainty.