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  • Cited by 6
  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: November 2009

8 - Understanding the role of cognition in science: the Science as Category framework


Scientists, philosophers, cognitive scientists, sociologists and journalists have often pondered over the nature of science and attempted to identify the cognitive strategies and procedures that scientists use in making discoveries. One thing that is clear from looking at science from this multiplicity of perspectives is that while many have argued for one simple cognitive procedure that characterizes science, this is fraught with problems. The goal of having a simple definition of science has now all but vanished from contemporary accounts of science. Following T. S. Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) there has been a shift to a more contextually grounded account of science. In this chapter, I will show that recent research in cognitive science points to a new way of conceptualizing scientific thinking that shows what mental procedures scientists use and provides insights into the cognitive underpinnings of science and the scientific mind. I will first provide an overview of some of our recent findings on what it is that scientists do while they conduct their research. Then I will introduce the Science as Category framework, and discuss the implications of this framework for cognitive models of science and human development.

Understanding science and the scientific mind: how do we do it?

Over the past hundred years there have been many efforts to provide a unified account of science. Interestingly, many of these accounts have placed at their core a cognitive activity such as induction or deduction.