Spanning seven orders of magnitude: A challenge for cognitive modeling

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

Much of cognitive psychology focuses on effects measured in tens of milliseconds while significant educational outcomes take tens of hours to achieve. The task of bridging this gap is analyzed in terms of Newell's (1990) bands of cognition—the Biological, Cognitive, Rational, and Social Bands. The 10 millisecond effects reside in his Biological Band while the significant learning outcomes reside in his Social Band. The paper assesses three theses: The Decomposition Thesis claims that learning occurring at the Social Band can be reduced to learning occurring at lower bands. The Relevance Thesis claims that instructional outcomes at the Social Band can be improved by paying attention to cognition at the lower bands. The Modeling Thesis claims that cognitive modeling provides a basis for bridging between events on the small scale and desired outcomes on the large scale. The unit-task level, at the boundary of the Cognitive and Rational Bands, is useful for assessing these theses. There is good evidence for all three theses in efforts that bridge from the unit-task level to educational applications. While there is evidence for the Decomposition Thesis all the way down to the 10 millisecond level, more work needs to be done to establish the Relevance Thesis and particularly the Modeling Thesis at the lower levels.




Published In

Cognitive Science, 26, 1, 85-112.