How do you search for resources in your environment?

    • Topic: Human Biology

    • Location: Hall of Human Life

    Foraging, or searching for things, requires making decisions. For example, an animal in the wild could choose to eat from a small food source nearby or it could instead decide to search for a larger food source elsewhere, even though it may not be able to find anything. This animal has to decide on the best way to find food. We are interested in exploring the information people use to make these decisions.

    In this study, participants (ages 7 to 55 years old) play a computer game set in an apple orchard. The goal is to collect as many apples as possible. Time is limited and players can only carry a few apples at once, so both their search time and travel time need to be kept short. To search efficiently players might need to decide how to remember where apples are and how long to search in a specific area.

    This research will help us understand the strategies people use when they are searching and evaluate their efficiency. We hope to use the data from this research to program autonomous robots to explore uncharted environments effectively.

    This research is conducted at the Museum of Science, Boston by the Center for Computational Neuroscience & Neural Technology at Boston University.

        » Center for Computational Neuroscience & Neural Technology at Boston University

    Activities to Try in the Hall of Human Life

    How Many Grapes in a Mile?

    Food was much harder to come by for our hunting and gathering ancestors. They had to make sure that the food they found gave them more energy than they spent finding it.

    Find the “How efficient is your walk?” link station in the Food environment. If you had to walk one mile to find grapes, how many would you need to eat? How long do you think it would take to forage for that many grapes?

    Activities to Try at Home

    Where’s the Remote?

    Have a friend hide a few different objects around a room at home, then go “foraging.” How did you decide where to search first? How did you decide where to look next?

    You know the rooms in your house very well, but in the wild animals have to explore new areas. What might you have done differently if you had been searching in a new room?

Research Spotlight

Contact Living Laboratory staff:

livinglaboratory@mos.org