The Cognitive Science of Science: Explanation, Discovery, and Conceptual Change

MIT Press
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A cognitive science perspective on scientific development, drawing on philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and computational modeling.

Many disciplines, including philosophy, history, and sociology, have attempted to make sense of how science works. In this book, Paul Thagard examines scientific development from the interdisciplinary perspective of cognitive science. Cognitive science combines insights from researchers in many fields: philosophers analyze historical cases, psychologists carry out behavioral experiments, neuroscientists perform brain scans, and computer modelers write programs that simulate thought processes.

Thagard develops cognitive perspectives on the nature of explanation, mental models, theory choice, and resistance to scientific change, considering disbelief in climate change as a case study. He presents a series of studies that describe the psychological and neural processes that have led to breakthroughs in science, medicine, and technology. He shows how discoveries of new theories and explanations lead to conceptual change, with examples from biology, psychology, and medicine. Finally, he shows how the cognitive science of science can integrate descriptive and normative concerns; and he considers the neural underpinnings of certain scientific concepts.

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About the author

Paul Thagard is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. He is the author of The Cognitive Science of Science (MIT Press, 2012) and many other books.

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Additional Information

Publisher
MIT Press
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Published on
Apr 6, 2012
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Pages
378
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ISBN
9780262300971
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Cognitive Psychology & Cognition
Science / Philosophy & Social Aspects
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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A groundbreaking argument challenging the traditional linguistic representational model of cognition proposes that representational states should be conceptualized as the cognitive equivalent of scale models.

In this groundbreaking book, Jonathan Waskan challenges cognitive science's dominant model of mental representation and proposes a novel, well-devised alternative. The traditional view in the cognitive sciences uses a linguistic (propositional) model of mental representation. This logic-based model of cognition informs and constrains both the classical tradition of artificial intelligence and modeling in the connectionist tradition. It falls short, however, when confronted by the frame problem--the lack of a principled way to determine which features of a representation must be updated when new information becomes available. Proposed alternatives, including the imagistic model, have not so far resolved this problem. Waskan proposes instead the Intrinsic Cognitive Models (ICM) hypothesis, which argues that representational states can be conceptualized as the cognitive equivalent of scale models.

Waskan argues further that the proposal that humans harbor and manipulate these cognitive counterparts to scale models offers the only viable explanation for what most clearly differentiates humans from other creatures: their capacity to engage in truth-preserving manipulation of representations.

which argues that representational states can be conceptualized as the cognitive equivalent of scale models.

Waskan argues further that the proposal that humans harbor and manipulate these cognitive counterparts to scale models offers the only viable explanation for what most clearly differentiates humans from other creatures: their capacity to engage in truth-preserving manipulation of representations.

Interdisciplinary approaches to identifying, understanding, and remediating people's reliance on inaccurate information that they should know to be wrong.

Our lives revolve around the acquisition of information. Sometimes the information we acquire—from other people, from books, or from the media—is wrong. Studies show that people rely on such misinformation, sometimes even when they are aware that the information is inaccurate or invalid. And yet investigations of learning and knowledge acquisition largely ignore encounters with this sort of problematic material. This volume fills the gap, offering theoretical and empirical perspectives on the processing of misinformation and its consequences.

The contributors, from cognitive science and education science, provide analyses that represent a variety of methodologies, theoretical orientations, and fields of expertise. The chapters describe the behavioral consequences of relying on misinformation and outline possible remediations; discuss the cognitive activities that underlie encounters with inaccuracies, investigating why reliance occurs so readily; present theoretical and philosophical considerations of the nature of inaccuracies; and offer formal, empirically driven frameworks that detail when and how inaccuracies will lead to comprehension difficulties.

Contributors
Peter Afflerbach, Patricia A. Alexander, Jessica J. Andrews, Peter Baggetta, Jason L. G. Braasch, Ivar Bråten, M. Anne Britt, Rainer Bromme, Luke A. Buckland, Clark A. Chinn, Byeong-Young Cho, Sidney K. D'Mello, Andrea A. diSessa, Ullrich K. H. Ecker, Arthur C. Graesser, Douglas J. Hacker, Brenda Hannon, Xiangen Hu, Maj-Britt Isberner, Koto Ishiwa, Matthew E. Jacovina, Panayiota Kendeou, Jong-Yun Kim, Stephan Lewandowsky, Elizabeth J. Marsh, Ruth Mayo, Keith K. Millis, Edward J. O'Brien, Herre van Oostendorp, José Otero, David N. Rapp, Tobias Richter, Ronald W. Rinehart, Yaacov Schul, Colleen M. Seifert, Marc Stadtler, Brent Steffens, Helge I. Strømsø, Briony Swire, Sharda Umanath

How do scientists develop new explanations of disease? How do those explanations become accepted as true? And how does medical diagnosis change when physicians are confronted with new scientific evidence? These are some of the questions that Paul Thagard pursues in this pathbreaking book that develops a new, integrative approach to the study of science.

Ranging through the history of medicine, from the Hippocratic theory of humors to modern explanations of Mad Cow Disease and chronic fatigue syndrome, Thagard analyzes the development and acceptance of scientific ideas. At the heart of the book is a case study of the recent dramatic shift in medical understanding of peptic ulcers, most of which are now believed to be caused by infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. When this explanation was first proposed in 1983, it was greeted with intense skepticism by most medical experts, but it became widely accepted over the next decade. Thagard discusses the psychological processes of discovery and acceptance, the physical processes involving instruments and experiments, and the social processes of collaboration, communication, and consensus that brought about this transformation in medical knowledge.



How Scientists Explain Disease challenges both traditional philosophy of science, which has viewed science as largely a matter of logic, and contemporary science studies that view science as largely a matter of power. Drawing on theories of distributed computing and artificial intelligence, Paul Thagard develops new models that make sense of scientific change as a complex system of cognitive, social, and physical interactions.


This is a book that will appeal to all readers with an interest in the development of science and medicine. It combines an engaging style, significant research, and a powerfully original argument.

Major New York Times bestseller
Winner of the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award in 2012
Selected by the New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2011
A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title
One of The Economist's 2011 Books of the Year
One of The Wall Street Journal's Best Nonfiction Books of the Year 2011
2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient
Kahneman's work with Amos Tversky is the subject of Michael Lewis's The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

In the international bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.

Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives—and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Winner of the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2011, Thinking, Fast and Slow is destined to be a classic.

Why is life worth living? What makes actions right or wrong? What is reality and how do we know it? The Brain and the Meaning of Life draws on research in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience to answer some of the most pressing questions about life's nature and value. Paul Thagard argues that evidence requires the abandonment of many traditional ideas about the soul, free will, and immortality, and shows how brain science matters for fundamental issues about reality, morality, and the meaning of life. The ongoing Brain Revolution reveals how love, work, and play provide good reasons for living.

Defending the superiority of evidence-based reasoning over religious faith and philosophical thought experiments, Thagard argues that minds are brains and that reality is what science can discover. Brains come to know reality through a combination of perception and reasoning. Just as important, our brains evaluate aspects of reality through emotions that can produce both good and bad decisions. Our cognitive and emotional abilities allow us to understand reality, decide effectively, act morally, and pursue the vital needs of love, work, and play. Wisdom consists of knowing what matters, why it matters, and how to achieve it.



The Brain and the Meaning of Life shows how brain science helps to answer questions about the nature of mind and reality, while alleviating anxiety about the difficulty of life in a vast universe. The book integrates decades of multidisciplinary research, but its clear explanations and humor make it accessible to the general reader.

How do brains make minds? Paul Thagard presents a unified, brain-based theory of cognition and emotion with applications to the most complex kinds of thinking, right up to consciousness and creativity. Neural mechanisms are used to explain mental operations for analogy, action, intention, language, and the self. Brain-Mind develops a brilliant account of mental operations using promising new ideas from theoretical neuroscience. Single neurons cannot do much by themselves, but groups of neurons work together to accomplish powerful kinds of mental representation, including concepts, images, and rules. Minds enable people to perceive, imagine, solve problems, understand, learn, speak, reason, create, and be emotional and conscious. Competing explanations of how the mind works have identified it as soul, computer, brain, dynamical system, or social construction. This book explains minds in terms of interacting mechanisms operating at multiple levels, including the social, mental, neural, and molecular. Unification comes from systematic application of Chris Eliasmith's powerful Semantic Pointer Architecture, a highly original synthesis of neural network and symbolic ideas about how the mind works. This book belongs to a trio that includes Mind-Society: From Brains to Social Sciences and Professions and Natural Philosophy: From Social Brains to Knowledge, Reality, Morality, and Beauty. They can be read independently, but together they make up a Treatise on Mind and Society that provides a unified and comprehensive treatment of the cognitive sciences, social sciences, professions, and humanities.
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