Carnegie Mellon professor wins psychology award

August 25, 2003

PITTSBURGH--John R. Anderson, the Richard King Mellon Professor of Psychology and Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, has been named the fourth recipient of the David E. Rumelhart Prize for contributions to the formal analysis of human cognition.

The $100,000 Rumelhart Prize is given annually to an individual who has contributed to scientific understanding of the human mind through research using computational or mathematical methods. The prize, created by the Robert J. Glushko and Pamela Samuelson Foundation of San Francisco, seeks to honor the outstanding research of David E. Rumelhart, a pioneer in the use of formal methods in cognitive science.

The Glushko-Samuelson Foundation seeks to promote the progress of science and useful arts for the public interest. In addition to the Rumelhart Prize, it supports clinical programs in technology and intellectual property law, public interest organizations concerned with privacy and civil liberties in cyberspace and scholarship and fellowship programs for students of science or technology policy.

"I am particularly honored to receive an award named for David Rumelhart. Dave was involved in some of the most important developments in cognitive science. He was someone whose papers I was always sure to read and whose comments I always valued," Anderson said.

Anderson was selected to receive the prize for 30 years of research that has given rise to 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 over 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, that are effective in helping students learn mathematics and computer programming skills. Cognitive Tutor Algebra, which is in use in more than 40 states, has been named an exemplary program by the U.S. Department of Education. 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.

"Anderson has all of the attributes we look for in a recipient of the Rumelhart Prize," said Robert Glushko, president of the Glushko-Samuelson Foundation. "He has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the human mind, he uses quantitative and computational methods, he addresses important real-world problems, and he is an outstanding teacher and scientific citizen, along with being an outstanding scientist."

Anderson has served as senior editor of the journal Cognitive Science and as president of the Cognitive Science Society. He has received many other honors, including membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

"The selection of Anderson rounds out the group of individuals selected to receive the Rumelhart prize," said James L. McClelland, the Walter Van Dyke Bingham University Professor of Psychology and Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon and the chair of the prize selection committee.

McClelland is a former collaborator of Rumelhart, a former Stanford professor who is best known for breakthroughs in the use of neural network models to capture aspects of human thinking processes. Rumelhart exploited a wide range of different formal methods in his own work, including the symbolic modeling framework employed by Anderson and the methods of mathematical psychology and of formal linguistics.
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Carnegie Mellon University

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