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The soft constraints hypothesis: A rational analysis approach to resource allocation for interactive behavior

Wayne Gray
Professor of Cognitive Science
Associate Dean of Graduate Studies & Research, School of Humanities & Social Sciences
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Monday, September 24, 2007
JEC 3117 - 4:00 p.m.
(Refreshments at 3:30 p.m.)


Soft constraints hypothesis (SCH) is a rational analysis approach that holds that the mixture of perceptual-motor and cognitive resources allocated for interactive behavior is adjusted based on temporal cost-benefit tradeoffs. Alternative approaches maintain that cognitive resources are in some sense protected or conserved in that greater amounts of perceptual-motor effort will be expended to conserve lesser amounts of cognitive effort. One alternative, the minimum memory hypothesis (MMH), holds that people favor strategies that minimize the use of memory. SCH is compared with MMH across 3 experiments and with predictions of an Ideal Performer Model that uses ACT-Rs memory system in a reinforcement learning approach that maximizes expected utility by minimizing time. Model and data support the SCH view of resource allocation; at the under 1000-millisecond level of analysis, mixtures of cognitive and perceptual-motor resources are adjusted based on their cost-benefit tradeoffs for interactive behavior. Implications of the SCH for views of embodiment and extended cognition are discussed.


Professor Gray earned his Ph.D. from U. C. Berkeley in 1979. His first position was with the U. S. Army Research Institute where he worked on tactical team training (at the Monterey Field Unit) and later on the application of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to training for air-defense systems (HAWK) (at ARI-HQ Alexandria, VA). He spent a post-doctoral year with Prof. John R. Anderson's lab at Carnegie Mellon University before joining the AI Laboratory of NYNEX' Science & Technology Division. At NYNEX he applied cognitive task analysis and cognitive modeling to the design and evaluation of interfaces for large, commercial telecommunications systems. His academic career began at Fordham University and then moved to George Mason University. He joined the Cognitive Science Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2002.

He is an active member of his professional communities. Dr. Gray is a current Associate Editor for the Cognitive Science journal and the Cognitive Systems Research journal. He is a past Associate Editor for the Human Factors journal (1998-2006) as well as for ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (1995-2003). He Chaired the Fourth International Conference on Cognitive Modeling (ICCM-2001) and co- Chaired the Cognitive Science Society Conference in 2002. He is the founding Chair of HFES' Human-Performance Modeling Technical Group (HPM-TG). In 2001 he was elected to a 6-yr term on the Board of Governors for the Cognitive Science Society where he served as Chair and member of the Executive Committee from 2003-2006.

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Last updated: September 12, 2007