Show Reference: "What Is an "Explanation" of Behavior?"

What Is an "Explanation" of Behavior? Psychological Science, Vol. 3, No. 3. (01 May 1992), pp. 150-161, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1992.tb00017.x by Herbert A. Simon
    abstract = {The cognitive  ” revolution” in psychology introduced a new concept of explanation and somewhat novel methods of gathering and interpreting evidence. These innovations assume that it is essential to explain complex phenomena at several levels, symbolic as well as physiological; complementary, not competitive. As with the other sciences, such complementarity makes possible a comprehensive and unified experimental psychology. Contemporary cognitive psychology also introduced complementarity of another kind, drawing upon, and drawing together, both the behaviorist and the Gestalt traditions.},
    author = {Simon, Herbert A.},
    citeulike-article-id = {13332487},
    citeulike-linkout-0 = {},
    citeulike-linkout-1 = {},
    citeulike-linkout-2 = {},
    day = {01},
    doi = {10.1111/j.1467-9280.1992.tb00017.x},
    issn = {1467-9280},
    journal = {Psychological Science},
    keywords = {philosophical, science, theories},
    month = may,
    number = {3},
    pages = {150--161},
    posted-at = {2014-08-22 11:18:52},
    priority = {2},
    publisher = {SAGE Publications},
    title = {What Is an  ” Explanation” of Behavior?},
    url = {},
    volume = {3},
    year = {1992}

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Schools in psychology have been thought of replacing each other. Instead, Simon argues that they build on top of each other and psychology is incremental instead of revolutionary.

The way to describe a dynamical system in time is to describe the rules for state transitions from one moment to another.

Human cognition is dynamic.

The way to describe human cognition is by describing how its state changes from one moment to another, given input.

Computer programs consist of production rules which rule how the state of the computer changes from one moment to another.

Computer programs can be theories of cognition: The theory represented by such a program would state that (certain) changes of state in a cognitive system are isomorphic to the changes in the computer determined by the program.

Computer programs are executable and therefore provide a rigorous way of testing their adequacy.

Computer programs can be changed ad-hoc to produce very different kinds of data (by changing production rules or parameters).

One could thus worry about overfitting.

To prevent overfitting, a computational model must be tested against enough data to counter its degrees of freedom.

Phenomenology is often described by different theories at different levels of resolution.

Theories at one level of resolution use aggregates of behavior of entities at a lower level of resolution for their own units of description.

Theories of the same things at different levels of resolution are necessary.

Neuropsychology must both describe information processing in the brain and do its part in building the abstracted interface to theories of cognition at higher levels of resolution.

Simon implies that human cognition is serial or parallel depending on the level of resolution one looks at it.

Static, purely psychophysical theories of cognition (computational theories of the mind, in Marr's sense) are weak and descriptive only, as opposed to explanatory.

Simon calls theories in psychology which make predictions by quantitatively describing structural characteristics of the brain models.

If natural learning (and information processing) were perfect, psychology would not need to study learning (and information processing), but the environment which would determine what we learn and how we process information.

Natural learning (and information processing) is not optimal and therefore psychology needs to study it and especially its imperfections.

Scientific theories usually presuppose entities below their level of resolution.

Natural cognition is not always optimal.