“You Can’t Play 20 Questions With Nature and Win”


Mind Hacks discusses Allen Newell’s 1973 paper, “You can’t play 20 questions with nature and win,” and argues that its challenge that psychology needs to develop a fundamentally different scientific strategy is still valid today.

“In the paper he confesses that although he sees many excellent psychology experiments, all making undeniable scientific contributions, he can’t imagine them cohering into progress for the field as a whole,” writes Mind Hacks. “His diagnosis for one reason that phenomena can generate endless excellent papers without endless progress is that people can do the same task in different ways. Lots of experiments dissect how people are doing the task, without constraining sufficiently the things Newell says are essential to predict behaviour…”

You can’t play 20 questions with nature and win (Mind Hacks, February 10, 2015)