Priming exploration across domains: does search in a spatial environment influence search in a cognitive environment?

Farid Anvari, Davide Marchiori*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperResearchpeer-review

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Is there a general tendency to explore that connects search behaviour across different domains? Although the experimental evidence collected so far suggests an affirmative answer, this fundamental question about human behaviour remains open. A feasible way to test the domain-generality hypothesis is that of testing the so-called priming hypothesis: priming explorative behaviour in one domain should subsequently influence explorative behaviour in another domain. However, only a limited number of studies have experimentally tested this priming hypothesis, and the evidence is mixed. We tested the priming hypothesis in a registered report. We manipulated explorative behaviour in a spatial search task by randomly allocating people to search environments with resources that were either clustered together or dispersedly distributed. We hypothesized that, in a subsequent anagram task, participants who searched in clustered spatial environments would search for words in a more clustered way than participants who searched in the dispersed spatial environments. The pre-registered hypothesis was not supported. An equivalence test showed that the difference between conditions was smaller than the smallest effect size of interest (d = 0.36). Out of several exploratory analyses, we found only one inferential result in favour of priming. We discuss implications of these findings for the theory and propose future tests of the hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherRoyal Society Publishing
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Domain-general exploration
  • Explore-exploit
  • Priming search
  • Tendency to explore


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