Augmenting Cognitive Architectures to Support Diagrammatic Imagination


correspondence should be sent to Balakrishnan Chandrasekaran, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail:


Diagrams are a form of spatial representation that supports reasoning and problem solving. Even when diagrams are external, not to mention when there are no external representations, problem solving often calls for internal representations, that is, representations in cognition, of diagrammatic elements and internal perceptions on them. General cognitive architectures—Soar and ACT-R, to name the most prominent—do not have representations and operations to support diagrammatic reasoning. In this article, we examine some requirements for such internal representations and processes in cognitive architectures. We discuss the degree to which DRS, our earlier proposal for such an internal representation for diagrams, meets these requirements. In DRS, the diagrams are not raw images, but a composition of objects that can be individuated and thus symbolized, while, unlike traditional symbols, the referent of the symbol is an object that retains its perceptual essence, namely, its spatiality. This duality provides a way to resolve what anti-imagists thought was a contradiction in mental imagery: the compositionality of mental images that seemed to be unique to symbol systems, and their support of a perceptual experience of images and some types of perception on them. We briefly review the use of DRS to augment Soar and ACT-R with a diagrammatic representation component. We identify issues for further research.