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ERIC Number: EJ970169
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Apr
Pages: 10
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0033-295X
Optimal Foraging in Semantic Memory
Hills, Thomas T.; Jones, Michael N.; Todd, Peter M.
Psychological Review, v119 n2 p431-440 Apr 2012
Do humans search in memory using dynamic local-to-global search strategies similar to those that animals use to forage between patches in space? If so, do their dynamic memory search policies correspond to optimal foraging strategies seen for spatial foraging? Results from a number of fields suggest these possibilities, including the shared structure of the search problems--searching in patchy environments--and recent evidence supporting a domain-general cognitive search process. To investigate these questions directly, we asked participants to recover from memory as many animal names as they could in 3 min. Memory search was modeled over a representation of the semantic search space generated from the BEAGLE memory model of Jones and Mewhort (2007), via a search process similar to models of associative memory search (e.g., Raaijmakers & Shiffrin, 1981). We found evidence for local structure (i.e., patches) in memory search and patch depletion preceding dynamic local-to-global transitions between patches. Dynamic models also significantly outperformed nondynamic models. The timing of dynamic local-to-global transitions was consistent with optimal search policies in space, specifically the marginal value theorem (Charnov, 1976), and participants who were more consistent with this policy recalled more items. (Contains 1 table and 5 figures.)
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Indiana