Unified Theories of Cognition: Newell’s Vision after 25 Years


It has been 25 years since Unified Theories of Cognition was published (Newell, 1990). In it, Newell outlines a vision to inspire generations of cognitive scientists and cognitive modelers; a quest for theories that provide comprehensive accounts of the human mind. As he put it: “A single system (mind) produces all aspects of behavior. It is one mind that minds them all. Even if the mind has parts, modules, components, or whatever, they all mesh together to produce behavior… If a theory covers only one part or component, it flirts with trouble from the start. It goes without saying that there are dissociations, interdependencies, impenetrabilities, and modularities… But they don’t remove the necessity of a theory that provides the total picture and explains the role of the parts and why they exist.” (Newell, 1990, pp. 17-18).