Researchers test the idea that we hunt for memories in our minds the same way some animals search for food…
In search of nectar, a honeybee flies into a well-manicured suburban garden and lands on one of several camellia bushes planted in a row. After rummaging through the ruffled pink petals of several flowers, the bee leaves the first bush for another. Finding hardly any nectar in the flowers of the second bush, the bee flies to a third. And so on.
Our brains may have evolved to forage for some kinds of memories in the same way, shifting our attention from one cluster of stored information to another depending on what each patch has to offer.
Recently, Thomas Hills of the University of Warwick in England and his colleagues found experimental evidence for this potential parallel. “Memory foraging” is only one way of thinking about memory—and it does not apply universally to all types of information retained in the brain—but, so far, the analogy seems to work well for particular cases of active remembering.