Theory and Evidence

The Development of Scientific Reasoning

In Theory and Evidence Barbara Koslowski brings into sharp focus the ways in which the standard literature both distorts and underestimates the reasoning abilities of ordinary people. She provides the basis for a new research program on a more complete characterization of scientific reasoning, problem solving, and causality. Long acknowledged for her empirical work in the field of cognitive development, Koslowski boldy criticizes many of the currently classic studies and musters a compelling set of arguments, backed by an exhaustive set of experiments carried out during the last decade.

Theory and Evidence describes research that looks at the beliefs that people hold about the type of evidence that counts in scientific reasoning and also examines how those beliefs change with age. The primary focus is on the strategies that underlie actual scientific practice: two general sorts of research are reported, one on hypothesis testing and the other on how people deal with evidence that disconfirms a given explanation—the process of hypothesis revision.

Koslowski argues that when scientific reasoning is operationally defined so that correct performance consists of focusing on covariation and ignoring considerations of theory or mechanisms, then subjects are often treated as engaging in flawed reasoning when in fact their reasoning is scientifically legitimate. Neither relying on covariation alone nor relying on theory alone constitutes a formula for success.

A Bradford Book

Learning, Development, and Conceptual Change series

Table of Contents

  1. Series Foreword
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. 1. Introduction
  4. 2. The Role of Mechanism and Alternative Accounts in Formal-Operational, Causal, and Scientific Reasoning
  5. 3. Disconfirming and Anomalous Evidence
  6. 4. When Non-Humean Indices Replace or Override Covariation
  7. 5. Beliefs about Covariation and Causal Mechanisms—Implausible as well as Plausible
  8. 6. Assessing Internal and External Validity
  9. 7. Evaluating Explanations in Light of Alternative Accounts
  10. 8. Rendering Implausible Causes Plausible
  11. 9. Deciding Whether Anomalies Refine a Theory or Call It into Question
  12. 10. Disconfirming Mechanism and Covariation Components of a Theory
  13. 11. Confirmation, Disconfirmation, and Differing Views of Scientific Inquiry
  14. 12. Spontaneous Generation of Appropriate Tests, Causal Mechanisms, and Alternative Hypotheses
  15. General Summary and Conclusions
  16. Notes
  17. References
  18. Index