Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

People forage for memories in the same way birds forage for berries

Date:
February 14, 2012
Source:
University of Warwick
Summary:
Humans move between ‘patches’ in their memory using the same strategy as bees flitting between flowers for pollen or birds searching among bushes for berries.

Humans move between ‘patches’ in their memory using the same strategy as bees flitting between flowers for pollen or birds searching among bushes for berries.

Researchers at the University of Warwick and Indiana University have identified parallels between animals looking for food in the wild and humans searching for items within their memory – suggesting that people with the best ‘memory foraging’ strategies are better at recalling items.

Scientists asked people to name as many animals as they could in three minutes and then compared the results with a classic model of optimal foraging in the real world, the marginal value theorem, which predicts how long animals will stay in one patch before jumping to another.

Dr Thomas Hills, associate professor in the psychology department at the University of Warwick, said: “A bird’s food tends to be clumped together in a specific patch – for example on a bush laden with berries.

“But when the berries on a bush are depleted to the point where the bird’s energy is best focused on another more fruitful bush, it will move on.

“This kind of behaviour is predicted by the marginal value theorem, for a wide variety of animals.

“Because of the way human attention has evolved, we wondered if humans might use the same strategies to forage in memory.It turns out, they do.

“When faced with a memory task, we focus on specific clusters of information and jump between them like a bird between bushes.For example, when hunting for animals in memory, most people start with a patch of household pets—like dog, cat and hamster.

“But then as this patch becomes depleted, they look elsewhere. They might then alight on another semantically distinct ‘patch’, for example predatory animals such as lion, tiger and jaguar.”

The study shows that people who either stay too long or not long enough in one ‘patch’ did not recall as many animals as those who better judged the best time to switch between patches.

In other words, people who most closely adhered to the marginal value theorem produced more items.

The study Optimal Foraging in Semantic Memory, published in Psychological Review, asked 141 undergraduates (46 men and 95 women) at Indiana University to name as many animals as they could in three minutes.

They then analysed the responses using a categorisation scheme and also a semantic space model, called BEAGLE, which identifies clusters in the memory landscape based on the way words are related to one another in natural language.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Warwick. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Thomas T. Hills, Michael N. Jones, Peter M. Todd. Optimal Foraging in Semantic Memory.. Psychological Review, 2012; DOI: 10.1037/a0027373

Cite This Page:

University of Warwick. "People forage for memories in the same way birds forage for berries." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214134809.htm>.
University of Warwick. (2012, February 14). People forage for memories in the same way birds forage for berries. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214134809.htm
University of Warwick. "People forage for memories in the same way birds forage for berries." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214134809.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study by British researchers suggests couples' sleeping positions might reflect their happiness. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins