DLF 20/21: Van Rooij

Iris van Rooij is Associate Professor in Computational Cognitive Science at Radboud University Nijmegen. She is awarded the 12th Distinguished Lorentz Fellowship and will hold this position for the academic year 2020/21.

Research Project

Tools for Theory: Improving the Theoretical Foundations of Psychological Science

Psychology has been reforming its own practices over the last decade. Most of that reform has focused on experiments and statistics while neglecting theory building. How can we build better theories? In this project Van Rooij addresses this question by integrating ideas from computer science, philosophy, and psychology.

The history of cognitive science and mathematical psychology demonstrates the power of formal theory building. Adoption of a formal approach in areas such as cognitive, social, developmental and evolutionary psychology seem to have been hindered by unfamiliarity. Much of psychology is still primarily in the business of discovering and confirming “effects”. This leaves contemporary psychology without strong formal and computational foundations, a scarcity of theoretical rigor, and a proliferation of just-so stories. This NIAS-Lorentz project aims to address this problem. Building on the mathematical theory of computability and philosophy of science, Van Rooij will develop tools for theory development and make them widely accessible.