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Cognitive architecture

blueprint for intelligent agents
The anatomical and functional architecture of Spaun.

A cognitive architecture can refer to a theory about the structure of the human mind. One of the main goals of a cognitive architecture is to summarize the various results of cognitive psychology in a comprehensive computer model.


  • When taken as a way of modeling cognitive architecture, connectionism really does represent an approach that is quite different from that of the classical cognitive science that it seeks to replace. Classical models of the mind were derived from the structure of Turing and Von Neumann machines. They are not, of course, committed to the details of these machines as exemplified in Turing's original formulation or in typical commercial computers—only to the basic idea that the kind of computing that is relevant to understanding cognition involves operations on symbols.. In contrast, connectionists propose to design systems that can exhibit intelligent behavior without storing, retrieving, or otherwise operating on structured symbolic expressions. The style of processing carried out in such models is thus strikingly unlike what goes on when conventional machines are computing some function.
  • A cognitive architecture specifies aspects of an intelligent system that are stable over time, much as in a building’s architecture. These include the memories that store perceptions, beliefs, and knowledge, the representation of elements that are contained in these memories, the performance mechanisms that use them, and the learning processes that build on them. Such a framework typically comes with a programming language and software environment that supports the efficient construction of knowledge-based systems.
    • Pat Langley, "Intelligent behavior in humans and machines." American Association for Artificial Intelligence. 2006. p. 6
  • Research on cognitive architectures varies widely in the degree to which it attempts to match psychological data. ACT-R (Anderson & Lebiere, 1998) and EPIC (Kieras & Meyer, 1997) aim for quantitative fits to reaction time and error data, whereas Prodigy (Minton et al., 1989) incorporates selected mechanisms like means-ends analysis but otherwise makes little contact with human behavior. Architectures like Soar (Laird, Newell, & Rosenbloom, 1987; Newell, 1990) and Icarus (Langley & Choi, in press; Langley & Rogers, 2005) take a middle position, drawing on many psychological ideas but also emphasizing their strength as flexible AI systems. What they hold in common is an acknowledgement of their debt to theoretical concepts from cognitive psychology and a concern with the same intellectual abilities as humans.
    • Pat Langley, "Intelligent behavior in humans and machines." American Association for Artificial Intelligence. 2006. p. 7
  • Cognitive load theory has been designed to provide guidelines intended to assist in the presentation of information in a manner that encourages learner activities that optimize intellectual performance. The theory assumes a limited capacity working memory that includes partially independent subcomponents to deal with auditory/verbal material and visual/2- or 3-dimensional information as well as an effectively unlimited long-term memory, holding schemas that vary in their degree of automation. These structures and functions of human cognitive architecture have been used to design a variety of novel instructional procedures based on the assumption that working memory load should be reduced and schema construction encouraged. This paper reviews the theory and the instructional designs generated by it.
    • John Sweller, Jeroen van Merrienboer, and Fred Paas. "Cognitive architecture and instructional design." Educational psychology review 10.3 (1998): 251-296.
  • The term “Cognitive Architectures” indicates both abstract models of cognition, in natural and artificial agents, and the software instantiations of such models which are then employed in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The main role of Cognitive Architectures in AI is that one of enabling the realization of artificial systems able to exhibit intelligent behavior in a general setting through a detailed analogy with the constitutive and developmental functioning and mechanisms underlying human cognition.
    • Antonio Lieto, Mehul Bhatt, Alessandro Oltramari, and David Vernon (professor), "The Role of Cognitive Architectures in General Artificial Intelligence". Cognitive Systems Research. 2017.

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