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Seminar: 3/9 - Peter Todd, Indiana University

11:00 to 12:30 PM      at:  5101 Tolman Hall

Cognitive search mechanisms for explore/exploit tradeoffs

How do we decide when to search for something better and when to stick with what we've got? Organisms must adaptively trade off between exploring and exploiting their environment to obtain the resources they need. This applies to whatever space the organism is searching: whether the two- or three-dimensional physical environment, looking for patches of food; the social environment, looking for mates or friends; or the mental environment, looking for information in memory. Different spaces and resource types can call for different search strategies, but there may be common underlying mechanisms for addressing the explore/exploit tradeoff in each. In the lab, 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) and in memory (e.g., for words in a category). Moreover, searching in an external domain can prime subsequent search strategies in an internal domain, and aspects of semantic memory retrieval can be predicted by optimal foraging theory developed for animal food search. In this talk, I will describe how new studies are uncovering these and other connections between cognitive search and spatial search.