Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences


Shane T. Mueller


Planning, navigation, and search are fundamental human cognitive abilities central to spatial problem solving in search and rescue, law enforcement, and military operations. Despite a wealth of literature concerning naturalistic spatial problem solving in animals, literature on naturalistic spatial problem solving in humans is comparatively lacking and generally conducted by separate camps among which there is little crosstalk. Addressing this deficiency will allow us to predict spatial decision making in operational environments, and understand the factors leading to those decisions. The present dissertation is comprised of two related efforts, (1) a set of empirical research studies intended to identify characteristics of planning, execution, and memory in naturalistic spatial problem solving tasks, and (2) a computational modeling effort to develop a model of naturalistic spatial problem solving. The results of the behavioral studies indicate that problem space hierarchical representations are linear in shape, and that human solutions are produced according to multiple optimization criteria. The Mixed Criteria Model presented in this dissertation accounts for global and local human performance in a traditional and naturalistic Traveling Salesman Problem. The results of the empirical and modeling efforts hold implications for basic and applied science in domains such as problem solving, operations research, human-computer interaction, and artificial intelligence.