Chapter | Cognitive Search: Evolution, Algorithms, and the Brain | 2012

Problem Solving and Search in Networks

by David Lazer and Ethan Bernstein


This chapter examines the role that networks play in facilitating or inhibiting search for solutions to problems at both the individual and collective levels. At the individual level, search in networks enables individuals to transport themselves to a very different location in the solution space than they could likely reach through isolated experimental or cognitive search. Research on networks suggests that (a) ties to diverse others provide a wider menu of choices and insights for individuals, and (b) strong ties will be relatively more useful for complex information, and weak ties for simple information. At the collective level, these conclusions become less clear. The key question is how the collective operates to coordinate within the group versus beyond it so as to balance experimentation and convergence towards a solution. Collective coordination of search, and collective evaluation of potential solutions, may significantly influence the optimal network structure for collective problem-solving search.

Keywords: networks; network organizations; search; problem solving; individual; individuals and teams; collective; cognitive search; network search; search typology; Networks; Social and Collaborative Networks; Theory; Knowledge Sharing;


Lazer, David, and Ethan Bernstein. "Problem Solving and Search in Networks." Chap. 17 in Cognitive Search: Evolution, Algorithms, and the Brain, edited by Peter M. Todd, Thomas T. Hills, and Trevor W. Robbins, 269–282. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.