Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Cognitive architectures as Lakatosian research programmes: two case studies

By Richard P. Cooper


Cognitive architectures - task-general theories of the structure and function of the complete cognitive system - are sometimes argued to be more akin to frameworks or belief systems than scientific theories. The argument stems from the apparent non-falsifiability of existing cognitive architectures. Newell was aware of this criticism and argued that architectures should be viewed not as theories subject to Popperian falsification, but rather as Lakatosian research programs based on cumulative growth. Newell's argument is undermined because he failed to demonstrate that the development of Soar, his own candidate architecture, adhered to Lakatosian principles. This paper presents detailed case studies of the development of two cognitive architectures, Soar and ACT-R, from a Lakatosian perspective. It is demonstrated that both are broadly Lakatosian, but that in both cases there have been theoretical progressions that, according to Lakatosian criteria, are pseudo-scientific. Thus, Newell's defense of Soar as a scientific rather than pseudo-scientific theory is not supported in practice. The ACT series of architectures has fewer pseudo-scientific progressions than Soar, but it too is vulnerable to accusations of pseudo-science. From this analysis, it is argued that successive versions of theories of the human cognitive architecture must explicitly address five questions to maintain scientific credibility

Topics: psyc
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Year: 2006
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1992). A cognitive process shell. doi
  2. (1997). A computational theory of executive cognitive processes and multiple-task performance: Part 1. Basic mechanisms. doi
  3. (1997). A computational theory of executive cognitive processes and multiple-task performance: Part 2. Accounts of the psychological refractory-period phenomenon. doi
  4. (1996). A systematic methodology for cognitive modelling.
  5. (2004). An integrated theory of mind. doi
  6. (1999). Automated intelligent pilots for combat flight simulation,
  7. (1998). Cognitive arithmetic. In J.R. Anderson & C. Lebiere (Eds.), The atomic components of thought (pp. 297–342). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. doi
  8. (1999). Computational modelling of high-level cognition and brain function. doi
  9. (1963). Discrimination reaction time for a 1023-alternative task. doi
  10. (1970). Falsification and the methodology of scientific research programmes. doi
  11. (2003). Frontal and parietal participation in problem solving in the Tower of London: fMRI and computational modelling of planning and high-level perception. doi
  12. (1973). Human associative memory. doi
  13. (1972). Human problem solving. Englewood Cliffs, doi
  14. (1997). Identifying dual-task executive process knowledge using EPICSoar.
  15. (1993). Intelligent multilevel control in a highly reactive domain. In
  16. (1976). Language, memory, and thought. doi
  17. (1993). Learning procedures from interactive natural language instruction. doi
  18. (1998). Maintaining consistency in hierarchical reasoning. In
  19. (2002). Memory for goals: An activation based model. doi
  20. (1994). NNPSCM. Note to Soar-group email list. Available at
  21. (1977). Progress and its problems. doi
  22. (1993). Rules of the mind. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. doi
  23. (2001). Serial modules in parallel: The psychological refractory period and perfect time-sharing. doi
  24. (1987). Skill acquisition: Compilation of weak-method problem solutions. doi
  25. (1995). Soar and the case for Unified Theories of Cognition. doi
  26. (1992). Soar as a unified theory of cognition: Issues and explanations. doi
  27. (1992). Soar as a world view, not a theory. doi
  28. (1987). SOAR: An architecture for general intelligence. doi
  29. (1990). The adaptive character of thought. doi
  30. (1983). The architecture of cognition.
  31. (1998). The atomic components of thought. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. doi
  32. (1986). The chunking of goal hierarchies: A generalized model of practice. In
  33. (1983). The Chunking of Goal Hierarchies: A Model of Practice and StimulusResponse Compatibility. Unpublished doctoral dissertation,
  34. (1983). The demise of the demarcation problem. doi
  35. (1996). The evolution of the Soar cognitive architecture. In
  36. (1935). The logic of scientific discovery. doi
  37. (1992). The vertical visual field and implications for the headup display.
  38. (1990). Unified theories of cognition. doi
  39. (1984). Universal Subgoaling. Unpublished doctoral dissertation,
  40. (2002). Why do children learn to say “Broke”? A model of learning the past tense without feedback. doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.