Unified Theories of Cognition

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Unified Theories of Cognition is a 1990 book by Allen Newell.[1] Newell argues for the need of a set of general assumptions for cognitive models that account for all of cognition: a unified theory of cognition (UTC).

A UTC must explain how intelligent organisms flexibly react to stimuli from the environment, how they exhibit goal-directed behaviour and acquire goals rationally, how they represent knowledge (or which symbols they use), and learning.

Newell's UTC argues that the mind functions as a single system. He also claims the established cognitive models are vastly underdetermined by experimental data. Therefore, a UTC accounting for the experimental data would provide constraints on the modeling process, resulting in more rigorous and predictive models. A UTC could also be applied as theoretical constructs to a much wider range of cognitive phenomena. When a phenomenon cannot plausibly be explained by the UTC's mechanisms, it could indicate the UTC is wrong.

Newell understands the term cognition to include perception and motor control.

The cognitive architecture Soar is an implementation of a UTC.

Further reading[edit]

  • Newell, A. (1994).Unified Theories of Cognition, Harvard University Press; Reprint edition, ISBN 0-674-92101-1.
  • Newell, A. (1973). "You can’t play 20 questions with nature and win: Projective comments on the papers of this symposium". In W. G. Chase (ed.), Visual Information Processing. New York: Academic Press. (Read article online.)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Newell, Allen. 1990. Unified Theories of Cognition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.