Empirically, I feel like sorting things in real life is not the same as sorting things for a computer. Algorithms like and merge sort and quicksort are the fastest things to sort for computers in the long run, but if I were to sit down and sort a thousand books alphabetically I don't see myself using either of them.

I can think of a couple of reasons off the top of my head why the sorting speed of an algorithm doesn't map to real life.

  • Swapping items is not constant time in real life. The more items you have in a row, the further you have to run to find something.
  • Indexing is not constant time. Unless you're sorting items in numbered slots, you're not going to be able to find the 110th item easily.
  • Most real life array operations are faster. For example, you can take an item from the end of a row of objects and move it to the other end.

I'm going to narrow the question a little further and say that we aren't sorting things by any obvious, intuitive traits like size. Say we're sorting a thousand equal sized books alphabetically by title listed on the spine.

What other factors of human intuition can influence the way a human sorts objects and what would be the fastest way to sort these books?


closed as primarily opinion-based by mfloren, Yvette Colomb, Robin Kramer, Keno, AliceD Jul 7 '17 at 7:08

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that it's human intuition, but rather a logical process that can be either taught or discovered and then the practice of it over time could make it appear intuitive. It's still logic. $\endgroup$ – Yvette Colomb Jul 7 '17 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Brian, welcome at CogSci. Your question is interesting but perhaps a bit opinion based. Different people may use different procedures which they all think may be the fasted. Perhaps you could rephrase your question and ask whether there are prototypical procedures for sorting that are applied by humans. Then, it can be answered more objectively. $\endgroup$ – Robin Kramer Jul 7 '17 at 5:54