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date: 28 January 2020


A Dictionary of Psychology

Andrew M. Colman

Gedankenexperiment n. 

An imaginary experiment, such as the Chinese room or the Turing test. As an example of how such an experiment can be highly illuminating, imagine walking into a dark room and switching on a 60-watt light, and then another 60-watt light. It is obvious from experience, without actually performing the experiment, that the room will not seem twice as brightly lit after the second light it turned on, which shows that the sensation of brightness does not double when the physical intensity of the light doubles (see Fechner's law, power law). Also called a thought experiment or an armchair experiment. [From German Gedanke a thought + Experiment an experiment]