Exploration of human search behaviour: a multidisciplinary\ud perspective

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Rosetti Sciutto, Marcos Francisco (2011)
  • Subject: QZ | BF0608 | BF0309

The following work presents an exploration of human search behaviour both from biological\ud and computational perspectives. Search behaviour is defined as the movements\ud made by an organism while attempting to find a resource. This work describes some of\ud the principal procedures used to record movement, methods for analysing the data and\ud possible ways of interpreting the data. In order to obtain a database of searching behaviour,\ud an experimental setup was built and tested to generate the search paths of human\ud participants. The test arena occupied part of a football field and the targets consisted of\ud an array of 20 golf balls. In the first set of experiments, a random and regular distribution\ud of targets were tested. For each distribution, three distinct conspicuity levels were\ud constructed: a cryptic level, in which targets were painted the same colour as the grass,\ud a semi-conspicuous level in which targets were left white and a conspicuous condition in\ud which the position of each target was marked by a red flag, protruding one metre from the\ud ground. The subjects tested were 9-11 year old children and their search paths were collected using a GPS device. Subjects did not recognise the spatial cues regarding the way targets were spatially distributed. A minimal decision model, the bouncing search model, was built based on the characteristics of the childrens search paths. The model produced an outstanding fit of the children’s behavioural data. In the second set of experiments, a new group of children were tested for two new distributions obtained by arranging the targets in patches. Again, children appeared unable to recognise spatial information during the collection processes. The children’s behaviour once again produced a good match with that of the bouncing search model. This work introduces several new methodological aspects to be explored to further understand the decision processes involved when humans search. Also, it illustrates that integrating biology and computational science can result in innovative research.
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