Explanation as a Cognitive Process

Zachary Horne, Melis Muradoglu, Andrei Cimpian

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Understanding how people explain is a core task for cognitive science. In this opinion article, we argue that research on explanation would benefit from more engagement with how the cognitive systems involved in generating explanations (e.g., attention, long-term memory) shape the outputs of this process. Although it is clear that these systems do shape explanation, surprisingly little research has investigated how they might do so. We outline the proposed mechanistic approach to explanation and illustrate it with an example: the recent research that suggests explanations exhibit a bias toward inherent information. Taking advantage of what we know about the operating parameters of the human mind is likely to yield new insights into how people come up with explanations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-199
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • attention
  • explanation
  • inherence bias
  • long-term memory
  • metacognition
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Explanation as a Cognitive Process'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this