Human symbol manipulation within an integrated cognitive architecture

Cogn Sci. 2005 May 6;29(3):313-41. doi: 10.1207/s15516709cog0000_22.


This article describes the Adaptive Control of Thought-Rational (ACT-R) cognitive architecture (Anderson et al., 2004; Anderson & Lebiere, 1998) and its detailed application to the learning of algebraic symbol manipulation. The theory is applied to modeling the data from a study by Qin, Anderson, Silk, Stenger, & Carter (2004) in which children learn to solve linear equations and perfect their skills over a 6-day period. Functional MRI data show that: (a) a motor region tracks the output of equation solutions, (b) a prefrontal region tracks the retrieval of declarative information, (c) a parietal region tracks the transformation of mental representations of the equation, (d) an anterior cingulate region tracks the setting of goal information to control the information flow, and (e) a caudate region tracks the firing of productions in the ACT-R model. The article concludes with an architectural comparison of the competence children display in this task and the competence that monkeys have shown in tasks that require manipulations of sequences of elements.