ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Psychological Research

, Volume 65, Issue 1, pp 34-45

First online:

Human performance on visually presented Traveling Salesman problems

  • Douglas VickersAffiliated withPsychology Department, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005, South Australia
  • , Marcus ButaviciusAffiliated withPsychology Department, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005, South Australia
  • , Michael LeeAffiliated withPsychology Department, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005, South Australia
  • , Andrei MedvedevAffiliated withPsychology Department, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005, South Australia

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Abstract

Little research has been carried out on human performance in optimization problems, such as the Traveling Salesman problem (TSP). Studies by Polivanova (1974, Voprosy Psikhologii, 4, 41–51) and by MacGregor and Ormerod (1996, Perception & Psychophysics, 58, 527–539) suggest that: (1) the complexity of solutions to visually presented TSPs depends on the number of points on the convex hull; and (2) the perception of optimal structure is an innate tendency of the visual system, not subject to individual differences. Results are reported from two experiments. In the first, measures of the total length and completion speed of pathways, and a measure of path uncertainty were compared with optimal solutions produced by an elastic net algorithm and by several heuristic methods. Performance was also compared under instructions to draw the shortest or the most attractive pathway. In the second, various measures of performance were compared with scores on Raven's advanced progressive matrices (APM). The number of points on the convex hull did not determine the relative optimality of solutions, although both this factor and the total number of points influenced solution speed and path uncertainty. Subjects' solutions showed appreciable individual differences, which had a strong correlation with APM scores. The relation between perceptual organization and the process of solving visually presented TSPs is briefly discussed, as is the potential of optimization for providing a conceptual framework for the study of intelligence.