What makes a good theory?

June 20-24, 2022, the Lorentz Workshop “What makes a good theory? Interdisciplinary perspectives” (organised by Berna Devezer, Joshua Skewes, Sashank Varma, Todd Wareham, and myself) took place. In total some 45 participants came together in a hybrid venue, on-site at the Lorentz Center and online in Gather.town. Participants came from a large variety of disciplines, including cognitive science, psychology, philosophy, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, biology, statistics, artificial intelligence, economics, and more.

I’m thrilled that I am able to share the amazing keynote talks with you. In these brief (15 min) talks, each speaker was asked to address one or more of the following 3 subquestions of the workshop theme:

  1. What criteria define good theories?
  2. How can we tell that a theory meets the criteria?
  3. How do we get good theories, i.e., what tools and methods may be employed to develop them; what practices and processes may facilitate their emergence?


Talk by Olivia Guest: “What makes a good theory, and how do we make a theory good?”

Talk by Angela Potochnik: “What not to expect of theories”

Talk by Manjari Narayan: “Identifiability as a tool for developing theories and generating better measurements”

Talk by Patricia Rich: “Mathematical models and alternative values: Good theories in Economics”

Talk by Artem Kaznatcheev: “Community makes  good mathematical theory”

Talk by Giosué Baggio: “What makes a good theory? Learning from linguistics”

Talk by Sashank Varma: “Cognitive theories that provide understanding”
Talk by Coty (Cleotilde) Gonzalez: “What makes a good theory?”

We hope these keynotes already give lots of food for thought. The ideas generated during this workshop will furthermore appear, among other venues, in a special issue in Computational Brain & Behaviour. So stay tuned for more!

Photo credit

The banner image represents the bridging of disciplines to build strong theoretical foundations. Photo by Berna Devezer, “Deception Pass Bridge, WA, USA”.


With thanks to our sponsors, whose generous support has made this workshop possible.