August 8, 2007

Cognition modeling

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —One goal of Sandia National Laboratories’ cognition program is to create simulated humans that interact with each other, their environment, and with actual humans in a realistic and psychologically plausible manner.

For several years Sandian Michael Bernard and others have been working with cognitive experts from universities around the country to develop computational models of memory, decision-making, reason, emotion, and stress. For example, his group is attempting to computationally represent episodic memory (memory of our unique, personal experiences), prospective memory (remembering to perform an intended action — i.e., pick up some milk on the way home from work), and semantic memory (factual information independent of the specific episodes in which that information was acquired).

Bernard says this is not an easy task.

“We’ve had to include a variety of aptitudes in the computer framework that are found primarily in humans and other higher primates,” he says.

This involves such abilities as “to dynamically respond to both environmental and social stimuli, perceive relationships among characters, have psychological and sociological plausibility, and account for different types of human emotions at various levels.”

To create software to accommodate this type of complex data, the team started with building blocks of memory: concept, the most fundamental element of the Sandia architecture; and contexts, meaningful perceptual representations based on recognizable patterns of stimuli.

“One of the milestones for the past fiscal year was to develop initial reasoning algorithms in the form of deductive, inductive, and abductive logic,” Bernard says.

Deductive reasoning is the process of reasoning in which the conclusion is reached from previously known facts; inductive is the process of reasoning in which the premises of an argument are believed to support the conclusion but do not ensure it; abduction is the process of selecting an hypothesis which would, if true, best explain the observation.

Bernard says that the ultimate the goal of this effort will be to build the groundwork for human simulation models that can be fielded as next generation modeling and simulation training, behavioral forecasting, and tactics development tools.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Chris Burroughs,, (505) 844-0948