Seek and Find: Search Strategies in Space and Time

INFO I400/I400H/I590

Course Description

3 Credits

Cross-listed in Cognitive Science, Peter Todd. The things we need dont usually come to us; we have to go looking for them. People spend much of their time searching for information, resources, material goods, opportunities, and even other people. What strategies do humans (and other animals) use to decide where and how to search and when to stop searching? In this course we will explore the processes that animals use when foraging for food in the wild, that people use when foraging for information on the Web, that shoppers use when looking for a bargain (or a parking space), that applicants use when seeking a job, and that singles use when looking for a date. Students will try their hand at various search problems throughout thecourse, andwill have the opportunity to program and analyze search strategies. We will see how optimal strategies process information from the environment to find the best option, and how heuristic rules can provide shortcuts to finding good alternatives. We will observe the emergent effects that many individuals looking for things at the same time can have on the search problem. And we will discuss how computational tools can be built using these ideas to help people do a better job at finding what they seek, whether online, in memory, or in the physical world.