Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Structure/Process Distinction

The structure/process distinction is a characteristic that is usually found in classically-defined information processors.  In such systems, the symbols or data being manipulated (the structure) are physically separate from, or independent from, the rules or operations that are used to do the symbol manipulation (the process).  For example, in a Turing machine, the infinitely long ticker tape memory serves as the storehouse for the symbols that are being manipulated, and the completely separate machine head holds the rules and methods for manipulating the symbols on the tape.  This distinction is important because it often distinguishes between classical models and connectionist models (Dawson, 1998), because in connectionism networks both store and manipulate data, so the structure/process distinction is less evident.  Because of this, it has been argued that connectionist systems are less brittle than classical systems.


  1. Dawson, M. R. W. (1998). Understanding Cognitive Science. Oxford, UK: Blackwell

(Added October, 2009)