Gobet, F., & Ritter, F. E. (2000).
Individual data analysis and Unified Theories of Cognition: A methodological proposal. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Cognitive Modelling. Veenendaal, The Netherlands: Universal Press.
Unified theories regularly appear in psychology (e.g. Skinner's, Hull's, and Piaget's theories). They also regularly fail to fulfil all of their goals. Newell (1990) has called for a revival of unified theories, using computer modelling as a way to avoid the pitfalls of previous attempts. His call, embodied in the Soar project has so far, however, failed to produce the breakthrough it promised. One of the reasons for the lack of success of Newell's approach is that the methodology commonly used in psychology, based on controlling potentially confounding variables by using group data, is not the best way forward for developing unified theories of cognition. Instead, we will propose an approach where (a) the problems related to group averages are alleviated by analysing subjects individually; (b) there is a close interaction between theory building and experimentation; and (c) computer technology is used to routinely test versions of the theory on a wide range of data. The advantages of this approach are shown to heavily outweigh the disadvantages.