Semantic, Lexical, and Geographic Cues in Recall Processes


Semantic fluency tasks have increasingly been used to probe the structure of human memory, adopting methodologies from the ecological foraging literature to describe memory as a trajectory through semantic space. Clusters of semantically related items are often produced together, and the transitions between these clusters of semantically related items are consistent with theories of optimal foraging, where the search process exhibits a balance between exploration and exploitation (Hills, Jones, & Todd, 2012). Here, we use a semantic fluency memory task in which subjects recall geographic locations. For each pairwise transition, we measure temporal, geographic, semantic, lexical, and phonetic distances. In general, the dimensions are loosely but reliably correlated with each other. Segmentation of the retrieval sequence into patches supports the notion that subjects strategically leave patches as within-patch resources diminish, but also suggests that subjects may shift their attention between different sources of information, perhaps reflecting dynamically changing patch definitions.

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