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The Limits of Scientific Reasoning

The Limits of Scientific Reasoning

David Faust
Foreword by Paul E. Meehl
Copyright Date: 1984
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    The Limits of Scientific Reasoning
    Book Description:

    The study of human judgment and its limitations is essential to an understanding of the processes involved in the acquisition of scientific knowledge. With that end in mind, David Faust has made the first comprehensive attempt to apply recent research on human judgment to the practice of science. Drawing upon the findings of cognitive psychology, Faust maintains that human judgment is far more limited than we have tended to believe and that all individuals - scientists included - have a surprisingly restricted capacity to interpret complex information. Faust’s thesis implies that scientists do not perform reasoning tasks, such as theory evaluation, as well as we assume they do, and that there are many judgments the scientist is expected to perform but cannot because of restrictions in cognitive capacity. “This is a very well-written, timely, and important book. It documents and clarifies, in a very scholarly fashion, what sociologists and psychologists of science have been flirting with for several decades - namely, inherent limitations of scientific judgment,” -Michael Mahoney, Pennsylvania State University David Faust is director of psychology at Rhode Island Hospital and a faculty member of the Brown University Medical School. He is co-author of Teaching Moral Reasoning: Theory and Practice.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8213-3
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
    Paul E. Meehl

    I found this a fascinating, wide ranging, provocative and deeply questioning book which I should think will interest scholars in a variety of domains including scientifically oriented clinical practitioners, cognitive psychologists, psychometricians, statisticians, philosophers and historians of science, and last—but surely not least—academic, government, and foundation administrators concerned with policy questions in the funding of scientific research. I admit that seems a somewhat unlikely heterogeneous readership, but I think all these groups owe themselves an intellectual favor, and the taxpayer due consideration, by reading this book. It also has the effect of refurbishing my somewhat battered image of...

    (pp. xxv-2)
    David Faust
  5. CHAPTER 1 Basic Assumptions and the Psychology of Science
    (pp. 3-37)

    Scientists, along with all other individuals, evidence cognitive limitations that lead to frequent judgment error and that set surprisingly harsh restrictions on the capacity to manage complex information and to make decisions. In the case of the scientist, this limitation extends to the judgments required by most prescriptive programs for science. This thesis implies that many descriptions of science must be inaccurate because they assume or report activities that go beyond the bounds of the scientist’s cognitive capacities. In consequence, many prescriptions for science must be revised in some manner so that the scientist can meet their judgment demands.


  6. CHAPTER 2 Human Judgment Abilities
    (pp. 38-56)

    Few topics in psychology have received as much attention in recent years as the study of human judgment. Most studies share certain characteristics: Individuals have access to or are directly provided with information. Investigators then study the interpretation that is made of the data or the process by which these interpretations are reached. When interpretation is of interest, one studies this phenomenon by reference to the specific conclusions reached about the information or the actions taken or decisions made following exposure to the information—for example, the prediction of some criterion or the selection from among alternatives of a specific...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Factors Underlying the Judgment Findings
    (pp. 57-83)

    For several years we have been able to describe experimental results demonstrating poor performance on judgment tasks, as well as those demonstrating the superiority of actuarial methods. But only more recently have we been able to move beyond pure speculation about the factors underlying these results and towards a beginning scientific understanding. As the evidence accumulates it shows more clearly that many of the early speculations were wrong, including the frequent speculation that bias, as it is commonly viewed, underlies most judgment failures. As Dawes (1976) points out, intellectuals from Plato to Freud have viewed bias as contamination, blockage, or...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Human Judgment and Science
    (pp. 84-146)

    Any attempt to foretell the extent to which the judgment findings generalize to scientists is as intriguing as it is hazardous. An extreme position will be put forth here, in part as a challenge, but mainly because I believe it to be more true than not. I hypothesize that for any judgment or cognitive limitation demonstrated to be common to an intelligent adult population, parallel instances will be found with scientists across fields.¹ Fallacious or limited reasoning by scientists will of course occur in the context of a different subject matter—the body of knowledge relevant to the scientist’s work....

  9. CHAPTER 5 Reflections, Extensions, and Elaborations of the Argument
    (pp. 147-166)

    In this closing chapter, I will highlight and extend the central arguments already put forth and address some of the issues they raise. Many compromises are necessary in pursuing this aim, and I will often make only brief mention of topics that could easily provide material for an entire book. Topics were selected with the essential purpose ofthisbook in mind—to establish credibility for the thesis that the judgment limitations of scientists are underrecognized and that these limitations have asubstantialimpact.

    The major thesis depends on a series of underlying assumptions (see p. 3), which some readers...

  10. APPENDIX Research Strategies
    (pp. 169-174)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 177-182)
    (pp. 185-192)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 195-198)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-199)