Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Architectural Description

An architectural description of an information processor is a description of its basic or fundamental information processing capabilities.  It is like a description of the basic programming language of the system, a language that is built directly into a machine (Dawson, 2010).  For example, in a Turing machine, the architectural description would basically be a description of the operations that are built into the machine’s table of instructions in the machine head.  It is important to cognitive science because it points to there being more than one level of description within the algorithmic level of analysis.  For a Turing machine, one level of description would be a programming account of the program that makes up part of the machine’s tape, and which could be changed.  Another level of description would be the architectural one, which is built right into the machine, and which is therefore much more permanent, and much less easy to change.


  1. Dawson, M.R.W. (2010). Cognitive architecture. In Hogan, P.C. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

(Added November 2009)