Fast and frugal memory search for communication
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Fast and frugal memory search for communication


Communication involves searching for optimal utterances within memory and then evaluating those utterances against a target goal. This task is substantially harder when informa- tion about multiple concepts has to be communicated, such as describing how music and tides are similar. Whether the search process for this challenging communicative task con- verges onto the optimal response relatively quickly, or involves more strategic decision-making to evaluate different candi- dates remains understudied. In this work, speakers gener- ated single word “clues” that would enable a listener to cor- rectly identify a pair of words among several distractor words. Speakers and listeners generated candidates before producing final responses. Each player was biased towards the first can- didate(s) they generated, even when this candidate was sub- optimal compared to other candidates, as was the case for less related concepts. Furthermore, straying away from the initial semantic “patch” of responses decreased accuracy in the game. Overall, these findings suggest that individuals tend to identify the relevant semantic cluster early on during semantic search, and are likely to employ the “take-the-first” strategy for select- ing utterances in ambiguous, ill-defined semantic contexts.

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