Performance of young children on "traveling salesperson" navigation tasks presented on a touch screen

Hiromitsu Miyata*, Shigeru Watanabe, Yasuyo Minagawa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The traveling salesperson problem (TSP) refers to a task in which one finds the shortest path when traveling through multiple spatially distributed points. Little is known about the developmental course of the strategies used to solve TSPs. The present study examined young children's performance and route selection strategies in one-way TSPs using a city-block metric. A touch screen-based navigation task was applied. Methodology/Principal Findings: Children (39-70 months) and adults (21-35 years) made serial responses on a touch screen to move a picture of a dog (the target) to two or three identical pictures of a bone (the goals). For all the versions of the tasks, significant improvement in measures of performance was observed from younger to older participants. In TSPs in which a specific route selection strategy such as the nearest-neighbor strategy minimized the total traveling distance, older participants used that strategy more frequently than younger ones. By contrast, in TSPs in which multiple strategies equally led to the minimal traveling distance, children tended to use strategies different from those used by adults, such as traveling straight to the farthest goal first. Conclusions/Significance: The results primarily suggest development of efficient route selection strategies that can optimize total numbers of movements and/or solution time. Unlike adults, children sometimes prioritized other strategies such as traveling straight ahead until being forced to change directions. This may reflect the fact that children were either less attentive to the task or less efficient at perceiving the overall shape of the problem and/or the relative distance from the starting location to each goal.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere115292
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Dec 18
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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