A complete, non-trivial, traveling sales tour problem contains at least one “indentation”, where nodes in the interior of the point set are connected between two adjacent nodes on the boundary. Early research reported that human tours exhibited fewer such indentations than expected. A subsequent explanation proposed that this was because the observed human tours were close to the optimal, and the optimal tours happened to have few indentations. The present article reports two experiments. The first was designed to test the “few indentations” hypothesis under more stringent conditions than previously, by including point sets with two (near) optimal solutions that had a different number of indentations. For these critical point sets, participants produced the optimal solution with fewer indentations significantly more often than the alternative optimal solution. In addition, participants’ solutions started on boundary points significantly more often than by chance. A second experiment tested whether the preference for fewer indentations is the result of a conscious strategy, or the product of the processes that generate a solution. The results supported the latter conclusion. The implications for theories of human tour generation are discussed.
MacGregor, James N.
"Indentations and Starting Points in Traveling Sales Tour Problems: Implications for Theory,"
The Journal of Problem Solving:
1, Article 3.