Cognitive Processing

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 389–399 | Cite as

Patterns of interaction-dominant dynamics in individual versus collaborative memory foraging

  • Janelle Szary
  • Rick Dale
  • Christopher T. Kello
  • Theo Rhodes
Research Report


The extent to which a cognitive system’s behavioral dynamics fit a power law distribution is considered indicative of the extent to which that system’s behavior is driven by multiplicative, interdependent interactions between its components. Here, we investigate the dynamics of memory processes in individual and collaborating participants. Collaborative dyads showed the characteristic collaborative inhibition effect when compared to nominal groups in terms of the number of items retrieved in a categorical recall task, but they also generate qualitatively different patterns of search behavior. To categorize search behavior, we used multi-model inference to compare the degree to which five candidate models (normal, exponential, gamma, lognormal, and Pareto) described the temporal distribution of each individual and dyad’s recall processes. All individual and dyad recall processes were best fit by interaction-dominant distributions (lognormal and Pareto), but a clear difference emerged in that individual behavior is more power law, and collaborative behavior was more lognormal. We discuss these results in terms of the cocktail model (Holden et al. in Psychol Rev 116(2):318–342, 2009), which suggests that as a task becomes more constrained (such as through the necessity of collaborating), behavior can shift from power law to lognormal. This shift may reflect a decrease in the dyad’s ability to flexibly shift between perseverative and explorative search patterns. Finally, our results suggest that a fruitful avenue for future research would be to investigate the constraints modulating the shift from power law to lognormal behavior in collaborative memory search.


Interaction dominance Power laws Multi-model inference Collaborative recall Collaborative memory Memory foraging Lévy processes 



We would like to thank Jacqueline Pagobo and Maxine Varela for their assistance with data collection and coding, Nick Duran for his help with Praat annotations, and Drew Abney for helpful discussion.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janelle Szary
    • 1
  • Rick Dale
    • 1
  • Christopher T. Kello
    • 1
  • Theo Rhodes
    • 2
  1. 1.Cognitive and Information SciencesUniversity of California, MercedMercedUSA
  2. 2.PsychologyState University of New York at OswegoOswegoUSA

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