Carnegie Mellon psychologist receives Heineken Prize

April 17, 2006

Pittsburgh-- The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has selected John R. Anderson, the Richard King Mellon Professor of Psychology and Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, as the recipient of the inaugural Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science.

The Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science, which carries a $150,000 award, is one of six prizes that are awarded every two years by the Alfred Heineken Fondsen Foundation to outstanding researchers selected by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. The foundation was created in the 1980s by the late Alfred Heineken, chairman of the board of the company that brews Heineken beer.

"Anderson's work stands internationally as a shining beacon in the ocean of cognitive research," said John A. Michon, a Royal Academy member and honorary secretary for the jury that selected Anderson. "It gives direction to theoretical development and to experimental studies in many areas, including cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, neurocognition, empirical economics and decision making, behavioral and evolutionary biology, as well as in a number of applied fields."

Anderson, who has been on the Carnegie Mellon faculty since 1978, is receiving the Heineken Award based on his work in developing ACT-R, an integrative theory of the computational operations underlying human thought processes. His theoretical work began with a model of how we search our memory for information and evolved throughout the first 10 years of his career into a complete theory of learning, memory and problem solving. Key to the work are methods for learning systems of condition-action rules, called production rules, that allow the initial formation and gradual strengthening of problem-solving skills. This work has led, among other things, to the development of computer-based tutoring systems known as Cognitive Tutors, which are effective in helping students learn mathematics and computer programming skills. Most recently, Anderson has begun to explore the neural basis of cognition, seeking the brain mechanisms that underlie the abstract computational operations identified in his cognitive theory.

"It is a sign of the growing importance of cognitive science that the Heineken Prizes in science have been expanded to include an award for our field. I am very honored to be the first winner and gratified that the award is for the ACT-R theory," Anderson said. "It reflects the work of a community of scholars dedicated to trying to put together an understanding of the human mind."

Anderson is an associate editor of the journal Cognitive Science and the only person to have served on its editorial board continuously since its inception in 1977. He is a past president of the Cognitive Science Society and has received many other honors, including the Early Career Award and Distinguished Scientific Career Award from the American Psychological Association and the David E. Rumelhart Prize. He also is a fellow in the National Academy of Sciences and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Anderson's work forms the foundation of Carnegie Mellon's reputation as one of the world's leading centers for research into human learning and the development of cutting-edge education technology.
The Heineken Awards will be presented September 28 at the Beurs van Berlage Building in Amsterdam by His Royal Highness Prince Willem Alexander, the crown prince of the Netherlands. A dinner and reception following the event will be hosted by Charlene De Carvalho-Heineken, the president of the Dr. A.H. Heineken Foundation and the daughter of Alfred Heineken. The week of the event will also feature the Heineken Lecture and other talks at various Dutch universities. For more information about the Heineken Prizes, go to

Carnegie Mellon University

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