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Cognitive psychologist John Anderson wins Benjamin Franklin Medal

Researcher is honored for contributions to cognitive modeling and computer-based education.

John R. AndersonJohn R. Anderson, professor of psychology and computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, is the 2011 recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science.   The Benjamin Franklin Medals, currently given in seven areas of science and engineering, are awarded by the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  Originating in 1824, they are among the oldest scientific awards in the world.

The medal honors Anderson “for the development of the first large-scale computational theory of the process by which humans perceive, learn and reason, and its application to computer tutoring systems.”  Anderson’s influential ACT (Adaptive Control of Thought) theory and computer simulation, which he has developed and expanded over the last 30 years, captures and makes fine-grained predictions about human behavior across a wide range of laboratory tasks involving learning, memory, and problem solving.   It combines symbolic representations of facts and rules with a neurally-inspired activation process.  In recent years, Anderson has extended his research to cognitive neuroscience, aiming to link components of ACT to particular brain regions and mechanisms.

Building on ACT, Anderson and colleagues have also developed intelligent computer tutoring systems for teaching mathematics and computer programming to middle school and high school students.  Educational programs incorporating these systems have been shown to be more effective than those using traditional textbook-based approaches and have been adopted in over 2500 schools. 

Anderson received his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University in 1972, working with Gordon Bower.  Among other honors, he is a recipient of the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (1994) and the Society of Experimental Psychologists’ Warren Medal (2005) and has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1999).  He is well-known for his undergraduate textbook Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications, now in its seventh edition, and has held several editorial positions, including currently as editor of Psychological Review. 

More information can be found on the Benjamin Franklin Medal website and on Anderson’s faculty website.