Rational use of cognitive resources: Levels of analysis between the computational and the algorithmic

Thomas L. Griffiths, Falk Lieder, Noah D. Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

238 Scopus citations


Marr's levels of analysis-computational, algorithmic, and implementation-have served cognitive science well over the last 30 years. But the recent increase in the popularity of the computational level raises a new challenge: How do we begin to relate models at different levels of analysis? We propose that it is possible to define levels of analysis that lie between the computational and the algorithmic, providing a way to build a bridge between computational- and algorithmic- level models. The key idea is to push the notion of rationality, often used in defining computational-level models, deeper toward the algorithmic level. We offer a simple recipe for reverse-engineering the mind's cognitive strategies by deriving optimal algorithms for a series of increasingly more realistic abstract computational architectures, which we call "resource-rational analysis".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-229
Number of pages13
JournalTopics in Cognitive Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Algorithmic level
  • Bayesian models of cognition
  • Computational level
  • Levels of analysis
  • Rational process models
  • Resource-rational models


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