Different theories of development propose alternative mechanisms by which development occurs. Cognitive architectures can be used to examine the influence of each proposed mechanism of development while keeping all other mechanisms constant. An ACT-R computational model that matched adult behavior in solving a 21-block pyramid puzzle was created. The model was modified in three ways that corresponded to mechanisms of development proposed by developmental theories. The results showed that all the modifications (two of capacity and one of strategy choice) could approximate the behavior of 7-year-old children on the task. The strategy-choice modification provided the closest match on the two central measures of task behavior (time taken per layer, r = .99, and construction attempts per layer, r = .73). Modifying cognitive architectures is a fruitful way to compare and test potential developmental mechanisms, and can therefore help in specifying "what develops.".
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