Cognitive approaches to translation studies are driven by three interrelated aims: to understand the structure and organisation of the capacities of cognitive agents involved in processes of translation, to build better theories and models of translation, and to develop more efficient methods and programs for translator training. Meeting the goals of such a broad agenda requires the fusion of different theoretical and experimental tools, involving fields such as cognitive psychology, linguistics, and artificial intelligence. The current landscape of research programs that investigate the cognitive underpinnings of translation is therefore both varied and constantly developing, and covers exploratory studies that aim to carve out the very problem space for cognitive approaches to translation through to large scale projects that promise helpful technological innovations.

Unlike some ‘hard’ sciences, analysis shows that cognitive research is not driven by a ‘master’ theory, in this case of the psychological capacities involved in the translation process. Instead, it seems that cognitive approaches to translation are better conceptualised as a family of projects based on multiple theories which are differentially relevant for studying the translation process. Cognitive approaches, I argue, are dynamically organised around specific problems or questions that have been shaped by previous research, by well-established cognitive hypotheses and by the current theoretical and practical interests of the discipline of translation studies.