FC03 – Arousal Interactions with Curiosity, Risk, and Reward from a Computational Cognitive Architecture Perspective

Lecturer: Christopher Dancy
Fields: Computational Cognitive Modelling, Computational Cognitive Science


In this focused course, we will cover some of the many ways in which stress and arousal can modulate behaviors related to curiosity, risk, and reward through the interactions between physiological, affective, and cognitive processes. We will use the ACT-R/Phi architecture to think about this from a perspective of interacting mind and body processes. The Project Malmo (Minecraft) environment will also be used to show how we might implement some of the theoretical accounts as simulated agents in a virtual environment.

Session 1: Theoretical Background

Session 2: Short Recap, Theoretical Background, and Cognitive Architectures (general)

Session 3: Short Recap, Cognitive Architectures (general), and ACT-R/Phi Background

Session 4: Short Recap, ACT-R/Phi, and Using Project Malmo with Cognitive Architectures to study interactions between arousal, curiosity, risk, and reward


  • Learn some a theoretical background on connections between memory systems, stress, arousal, and curiosity
  • Learn some background on some cognitive architectures
  • Learn about ACT-R/Phi
  • Learn about the Project Malmo Environment (Minecraft)
  • Learn about how one might create cognitive agents to run in Project Malmo
  • (Some are meant to be hands on, but we’ll work with what we can if some don’t have a computer!)



Christopher L. Dancy received a B.S. in Computer Science, in 2010, and Ph.D. in Information Sciences and Technology, with a focus on artificial intelligence and cognitive science, in 2014, both from The Pennsylvania State University (University Park). He is an assistant professor of computer science at Bucknell University. His research involves the computational modeling of physiological, affective, and cognitive systems in humans. He studies how these systems interact, what these interactions mean for human-like intelligent behavior and interaction between humans and artificial intelligent systems. His work has been funded by National Science Foundation, US Office of Naval Research, US Army Research Lab, and The Social Science Research Council. Chris Dancy has previously chaired the Behavior Representation in Modeling and Simulation Society and is currently a member of ACM, AAAI, the Cognitive Science Society, National Society of Black Engineers, IEEE SMC, and the IEEE Computer Society.

Affiliation: Bucknell University