The Cognitive Science of Science

Explanation, Discovery, and Conceptual Change

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.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. I. Introduction
  4. 1. What Is the Cognitive Science of Science?
  5. II. Explanation and Justification
  6. 2. Why Explanation Matters
  7. 3. Models of Scientific Explanation
  8. 4. How Brains Make Mental Models
  9. 5. Changing Minds about Climate Change: Belief Revision, Coherence, and Emotion
  10. 6. Coherence, Truth, and the Development of Scientific Knowledge
  11. III. Discovery and Creativity
  12. 7. Why Discovery Matters
  13. 8. The Aha! Experience: Creativity through Emergent Binding in Neural Networks
  14. 9. Creative Combination of Representations: Scientific Discovery and Technological Invention
  15. 10. Creativity in Computer Science
  16. 11. Patterns of Medical Discovery
  17. IV. Conceptual Change
  18. 12. Why Conceptual Change Matters
  19. 13. Conceptual Change in the History of Science: Life, Mind, and Disease
  20. 14. Getting to Darwin: Obstacles to Accepting Evolution by Natural Selection
  21. 15. Acupuncture, Incommensurability, and Conceptual Change
  22. 16. Conceptual Change in Medicine: Explanations of Mental Illness from Demons to Epigenetics
  23. V. New Directions
  24. 17. Values in Science: Cognitive-Affective Maps
  25. 18. Scientific Concepts as Semantic Pointers
  26. References
  27. Index