How did Darwin decide which book to read next?

A new study published in Cognition blends information theory, cognitive science and personal history By Christian Jarrett Between 1837 and 1860 Charles Darwin kept a diary of every book he read, including An Essay on the Principle of Population, Principles of Geology and Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. There were many others: 687 English non-fiction titles alone, meaning that he averaged one book every ten days. After Darwin finished each one, how did he decide what to read next? In this decision, a scientist like Darwin was confronted with a problem similar to that afflicting the squirrel in search of nuts. Is it better to thoroughly search one area (or topic), or to continually jump to new areas (topics)? Foraging, whether for nuts or information, comes down to a choice between exploitation and exploration. In a new paper in Cognition, a team led by Jaimie Murdock has analysed the contents of the English non-fiction books Darwin read, and the order he read them in, to find out his favoured information-gathering approach and how it changed over time. The researchers analysed digital versions of 665 of the books Darwin read, counting and categorising the topics mentioned within. From this, they calculated whether each successive book reflected a foray into surprising new territory or a deeper dig into a similar subject area. They found that Darwin began his note-keeping period with a greater emphasis on exploitation, large...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: Tags: Cognition Methods Source Type: blogs

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