Cognitive Search

From Strüngmann Forum Reports

Cognitive Search

Evolution, Algorithms, and the Brain

Edited by Peter M. Todd, Thomas T. Hills and Trevor W. Robbins

An exploration of the evolution, function, and mechanisms of search for resources in the mind and in the world.





An exploration of the evolution, function, and mechanisms of search for resources in the mind and in the world.

Over a century ago, William James proposed that people search through memory much as they rummage through a house looking for lost keys. We scour our environments for territory, food, mates, and information. We search for items in visual scenes, for historical facts, and for the best deals on Internet sites; we search for new friends to add to our social networks, and for solutions to novel problems. What we find is always governed by how we search and by the structure of the environment.

This book explores how we search for resources in our minds and in the world. The authors examine the evolution and adaptive functions of search; the neural underpinnings of goal-searching mechanisms across species; psychological models of search in memory, decision making, and visual scenes; and applications of search behavior in highly complex environments such as the Internet. As the range of information, social contacts, and goods continues to expand, how well we are able to search and successfully find what we seek becomes increasingly important. At the same time, search offers cross-disciplinary insights to the scientific study of human cognition and its evolution. Combining perspectives from researchers across numerous domains, this book furthers our understanding of the relationship between search and the human mind.


$50.00 X ISBN: 9780262018098 416 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 11 color photos, 8 b&w photos, 16 halftones


Peter M. Todd

Peter M. Todd is Professor of Informatics, Cognitive Science, and Psychology at Indiana University.

Thomas T. Hills

Thomas T. Hills is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Warwick.

Trevor W. Robbins

Trevor W. Robbins is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Chair of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge, where he is also Director of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute.


  • We desperately need a better understanding of how people search for information in the real world. After all, intelligent search and stopping search, both internally and externally, are keys to adaptive behavior. This book provides a comprehensive view of current knowledge and, importantly, lays out the direction for future research on 'satisficing' (as opposed to 'optimizing') search mechanisms in humans and other species.

    Gerd Gigerenzer

    Director, Max Planck Institute for Human Development

  • This collection significantly broadens and deepens our scientific understanding of search as it manifests in behavior, biology, cognitive processes, the brain, and computation. Twenty years ago, the idea that one kind of search, such as information search, was like another, such as food foraging, was typically met with resistance that focused on differences (after all, information is not food). This book demonstrates the rich tapestry of explanations of search that cuts across fields, and the papers provide fertile opportunities for a new generation of researchers to reach across disciplines to find exciting and productive concepts and models.

    Peter Pirolli

    Research Fellow, Palo Alto Research Center