Semantic Search in the Remote Associates Test.Top Cogn Sci 2015; 7(3):494-512TC
Searching through semantic memory may involve the use of several retrieval cues. In a verbal fluency task, the set of available cues is limited and every candidate word is a target. Individuals exhibit clustering behavior as predicted by optimal foraging theory. In another semantic search task, the remote associates task (RAT), three cues are presented and a single target word has to be found. Whereas the task has been widely studied as a task of creativity or insight problem solving, in this article, the RAT is treated as a semantic retrieval task and assessed from the perspective of information foraging theory. Experiments are presented that address the superadditive combination of cues and the anti-clustering behavior in the recall sequence. A new type of search behavior in the RAT is put forward that involves maximizing the difference in activation between target and distractors. This type of search is advantageous when the target is weak and cue patches are contaminated with strong competitors.