Interfacing Mind and Environment: The Central Role of Search in Cognition

Wai Tat Fu, Thomas Hills, Peter M. Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Search can be found in almost every cognitive activity, ranging across vision, memory retrieval, problem solving, decision making, foraging, and social interaction. Because of its ubiquity, research on search has a tendency to fragment into multiple areas of cognitive science. The proposed topic aims at providing integrative discussion of the central role of search from multiple perspectives. We focus on controlled search processes, which require (a) a goal, (b) uncertainty about the nature, location, or acquisition method of the objects to be searched for, and (c) a method for sampling through the search environment. While this definition of search is general and applicable to different domains, the specific mechanisms in the search process will likely differ. The goal of this issue is to compare and contrast how these search processes are similar and differ in different cognitive activities, with the goal of understanding the general nature of search in terms of the three characteristics stated above. We expect that given its cross-domain nature, the topic on search will be of broad interest to cognitive scientists, including psychologists, behavioral ecologists, computer scientists, neuroscientists, linguists, and sociologists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-390
Number of pages7
JournalTopics in Cognitive Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive search
  • Exploration-exploitation trade-off
  • Resource distributions
  • Search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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