Goldstone, R. L., Roberts, M. E., Mason, W., & Gureckis, T. (2008). Collective search in concrete and abstract spaces. In T. Kugler, J. C. Smith, T. Connelly, and Y. Sun (Eds.) Decision modeling and behavior in complex and uncertain environments. New York: Springer Press. (pp. 277-308).
Our laboratory has been studying the emergence of collective search behavior from a complex systems perspective. We have developed an internet-based experimental platform that allows groups of people to interact with each other in real time on networked computers. The experiments implement virtual environments where participants can see the moment-to-moment actions of their peers and immediately respond to their environment. Agent-based computational models are used as accounts of the experimental results. We describe two paradigms for collective search – one in physical space and the other in an abstract problem space. The physical search situation concerns competitive foraging for resources by individuals inhabiting an environment consisting largely of other individuals foraging for the same resources. The abstract search concerns the dissemination of innovations in social networks. Across both scenarios, the group-level behavior that emerges reveals influences of exploration and exploitation, bandwagon effects, population waves, and compromises between individuals using their own information and information obtained from their peers.