Foraging in the World, Mind and Online
OVERVIEW: How do we decide when to search for something better and when to stick with what we've got? People, like other organisms, must adaptively trade off between exploring and exploiting their environment to obtain the resources they need. This applies to whatever space they are searching: whether the external spatial world, looking for patches of food; the social environment, looking for mates or friends; the internal mental environment, looking for concepts in memory; or the online environment, looking for information on the Web. Common underlying mechanisms may be used to address the explore/exploit tradeoff in each of these domains. People use similar heuristic strategies to decide when to keep looking and when to give up searching for resources in patches in space (e.g., for fish in a pond), in memory (e.g., for words in a category), and online (e.g., for useful Web pages), as predicted by optimal foraging theory. Moreover, the connections between search in these domains may have deep evolutionary roots, built on the same underlying mechanisms, as indicated by studies showing that search in an external domain can prime subsequent search strategies in an internal domain. In this talk, I will describe how new studies are uncovering these connections between spatial search and information search (as described in Cognitive Search: Evolution, Algorithms, and the Brain, Todd, Hills, and Robbins, eds.; MIT Press, 2012).
READINGS:Hills, T. T., Jones, M. N., & Todd, P. M. (2012). Optimal foraging in semantic memory. Psychological review, 119(2), 431.
Hills, T.T., Todd, P.M., and Goldstone, R.L. (2008). Search in external and internal spaces: Evidence for generalized cognitive search processes. Psychological Science, 19(8), 802-808.
Wilke, A., Todd, P.M., and Hutchinson, J.M.C. (2009). Fishing for the right words: Decision rules for human foraging behavior in external and internal search tasks. Cognitive Science, 33, 497-529.