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 October 21, 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 October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A study suggests that parents become desensitized to violent movies as well as children, which leads them to allow their kids to view violent films. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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