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Cognitive SearchEvolution, Algorithms, and the Brain$
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Peter M. Todd, Thomas T. Hills, and Trevor W. Robbins

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780262018098

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262018098.001.0001

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The Evolution of Cognitive Search

The Evolution of Cognitive Search

(p.11) 2 The Evolution of Cognitive Search
Cognitive Search

Thomas T. Hills

Reuven Dukas

The MIT Press

Search can be defined as an attempt to arrive at a goal at an unknown location in the physical environment, as well as in time, memory, or any other space. Search is necessary because the quantity and quality of resources essential to survival and reproduction vary in space and time. In addition to exploration through actual body movement in their environment, animals search their external information space through selective allocation of attention and their internal information space to retrieve relevant items from memory. This chapter integrates data on search in three distinct domains—physical movement, attention to external information, and locating items in memory—to highlight the remarkable similarities between these three domains. First, resources in all three domains are typically distributed in patches. Second, in each of the three domains, animals typically keep searching in patches where they have recently found resources and leave areas when none are found or where they have already depleted the resources. Third, the neurobiological mechanisms modulating the exploration for and exploitation of resources in all three domains involve dopamine as well as, in many vertebrates, regions of the prefrontal cortex and striatum. It is suggested that, throughout evolution, animals co-opted existing strategies and mechanisms used to search their physical space for exploring and exploiting internal and external information spaces. The cross-disciplinary integration of theory and data about search can be used to guide future research on the mechanisms underlying cognitive search.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, cognitive search, dopamine, internal search, memory, physical movement, prefrontal cortex, striatum

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