A major goal for the cognitive psychology of science is to provide a cognitive theory that can account for how the working practices of scientists lead to developments in scientific knowledge. In our view, such a theory should begin with an abstract model that provides an understanding of developments in science and specifies the events to be addressed. This first task involves some discussion and synthesis of recent work in the philosophy and history of science. The second task is to specify the working practices of scientists that lead to the events incorporated in the abstract model. Finally, the various practices must be understood in terms of a rigorous cognitive theory of psychology that can be empirically evaluated by conventional scientific methods.
During the past 25 years, a number of philosophers have presented postpositivist accounts of science and scientific change that have been quite influential in interdisciplinary science studies. These philosophers generally agree that the important overall units for understanding science, that is, for interpreting and analyzing scientific developments, are large-scale conceptual structures, variously referred to as paradigms (Kuhn, 1962), disciplinary matrixes (Kuhn, 1970), global theories (Feyerabend, 1975, 1981a, 1981b), research traditions (Laudan, 1977), guiding assumptions (Laudan et al., 1986), and research programs (Lakatos, 1970, 1978). In what follows we adopt the term “research program,” but this should not be taken as an endorsement of any particular philosophical position. Examples of research programs include Newtonian physics and behavioral psychology.
The abstract model outlined below is not completely representative of any previously articulated view.