Memory foraging in a spatial domain


Search is a ubiquitous behavior for a variety of species. Converging evidence from several domains suggests that there may be common principles that apply to search processes regardless of the species, or contexts, in which they are observed. Theories of cognitive or memory search have been motivated by findings in the animal foraging literature, and have recently been the subject of increased attention (see Hills et al., 2015; Hills, Jones, & Todd, 2012, for example). This approach has been quite successful in terms of applying the principles of spatial search to cognitive search, but here we add additional justification by grounding cognitive search in spatial measures. We asked subjects to perform a semantic fluency task, recalling items from the category of cities in California, so we could use physical, geographic coordinates to characterize cognitive search. Our findings support the notion that cognitive search is similar to spatial search.

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