A VIEW FROM CHEMISTRY
George M. Bodner Purdue University
For months, I have been agonizing over the question posed by the organizers of this symposium: "Is it possible to produce a unified theory of problem solving?" I have waffled back and forth between an optimistic "yes" and a pessimistic "no." While sitting in a hotel room, just before leaving for the tenth annual conference of the Cognitive Science Society, I came to the following conclusion: Yes, it is possible to construct a unified theory of problem solving. I have done so, and I expect that each of the other participants in this symposium will have done so as well. Unfortunately, I'm afraid our unified theories will differ significantly from one another. I am confident that we are beyond the stage described by Figure 1, but I fear that there are subtle differences between the way each of us defines important terms, which cause difficulties in reaching a truly unified theory of problem solving. Researchers in this area, as much as any I've encountered, seem to adhere to a philosophy summarized by Lewis Carroll ( 1896).