Human memory search as a random walk in a semantic network

Joshua T. Abbott, Joseph L. Austerweil, Thomas L. Griffiths

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

The human mind has a remarkable ability to store a vast amount of information in memory, and an even more remarkable ability to retrieve these experiences when needed. Understanding the representations and algorithms that underlie human memory search could potentially be useful in other information retrieval settings, including internet search. Psychological studies have revealed clear regularities in how people search their memory, with clusters of semantically related items tending to be retrieved together. These findings have recently been taken as evidence that human memory search is similar to animals foraging for food in patchy environments, with people making a rational decision to switch away from a cluster of related information as it becomes depleted. We demonstrate that the results that were taken as evidence for this account also emerge from a random walk on a semantic network, much like the random web surfer model used in internet search engines. This offers a simpler and more unified account of how people search their memory, postulating a single process rather than one process for exploring a cluster and one process for switching between clusters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems 25
Subtitle of host publication26th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems 2012, NIPS 2012
Pages3041-3049
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event26th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems 2012, NIPS 2012 - Lake Tahoe, NV, United States
Duration: Dec 3 2012Dec 6 2012

Publication series

NameAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
Volume4
ISSN (Print)1049-5258

Other

Other26th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems 2012, NIPS 2012
CountryUnited States
CityLake Tahoe, NV
Period12/3/1212/6/12

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing

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  • Cite this

    Abbott, J. T., Austerweil, J. L., & Griffiths, T. L. (2012). Human memory search as a random walk in a semantic network. In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 25: 26th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems 2012, NIPS 2012 (pp. 3041-3049). (Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems; Vol. 4).