|Publisher||Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory|
Humans commonly engage in a variety of search behaviours, for example when looking for an object, a partner, information, or a solution to a complex problem. The success or failure of a search strategy crucially depends on the structure of the environment and the constraints it imposes on the individuals. Here we focus on environments in which individuals have to explore the solution space gradually and where their reward is determined by one unique solution they choose to exploit. This type of environment has been relatively overlooked in the past despite being relevant to numerous real-life situations, such as spatial search and various problem-solving tasks.
By means of a dedicated experimental design, we show that the search behaviour of experimental participants can be well described by a simple heuristic model. Both in rich and poor solution spaces, a take-the-best procedure that ignores all but one cue at a time is capable of reproducing a diversity of observed behavioural patterns. Our approach, therefore, sheds lights on the possible cognitive mechanisms involved in human search.
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