Cognitive theory development as we know it: Specificity, explanatory power and the brain


Frontiers in Language Sciences, Vol. 4, 56


February, 2013


Crepaldi, D. and Amenta, S.

In an effort to define more precisely what we currently know about early steps in the visual identification of complex words, we recently published a review of morphological effects in lexical decision, unmasked priming and masked priming studies (Amenta and Crepaldi, 2012). The review aims at identifying a set of well-established experimental effects that any theory in the field should be able to explain, so as to allow for a more rigorous adjudication process to take place and for the field to progress incrementally toward more and more explanatory power (Grainger and Jacobs, 1996; Coltheart et al., 2001). We called this set of experimental effects “the target list” (Amenta and Crepaldi, 2012, p. 9). Shortly afterwards, Koester (2012) published a commentary that highlights a set of open issues concerning our paper, which we try to address here. The questions raised by Koester (2012) are all well motivated, and their answer strongly influence how the target list is going to be used in future research; for this reason, it is important to address Koester's questions in a timely manner and, in doing so, to specify more clearly why we believe that the target list is important for the field, and how it should be used. Importantly, although we strongly advocated in our original paper for cognitive theories to become computational models, Koester's points apply more generally to any kind of cognitive theory, either computational or descriptive; our replies will thus try to stand at that general level, which stresses the generality and importance of the issues highlighted by Koester (2012).