Asking the right questions about the psychology of human inquiry: Nine open challenges

Anna Coenen, Jonathan D. Nelson, Todd M. Gureckis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The ability to act on the world with the goal of gaining information is core to human adaptability and intelligence. Perhaps the most successful and influential account of such abilities is the Optimal Experiment Design (OED) hypothesis, which argues that humans intuitively perform experiments on the world similar to the way an effective scientist plans an experiment. The widespread application of this theory within many areas of psychology calls for a critical evaluation of the theory’s core claims. Despite many successes, we argue that the OED hypothesis remains lacking as a theory of human inquiry and that research in the area often fails to confront some of the most interesting and important questions. In this critical review, we raise and discuss nine open questions about the psychology of human inquiry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1548-1587
Number of pages40
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Active learning
  • Information gain
  • Information search
  • Inquiry
  • Optimal experiment design
  • Question asking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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