When looking to predict how MBA students and analysts would find information in a digital environment, Peter Pirolli found his answer in an unlikely place: animal’s foraging patterns. Pirolli, working at the Palo Alto Research Center, was trying to predict with some mathematical accuracy the behavior of humans when searching for information but was having challenges finding models that accommodated “messy” data in an unstructured environment. Given the fuzzy nature of the problem, it seemed that there wasn’t an overlying rational to human behavior. It wasn’t until he applied the principles of Stephens and Krebs optimal foraging theory (1986) in animals that the patterns started to fall into place. Pirolli refered to it as his “ah- ha” moment.
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