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The Psychology of Science and the Origins of the Scientific Mind

The Psychology of Science and the Origins of the Scientific Mind

Gregory J. Feist
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Psychology of Science and the Origins of the Scientific Mind
    Book Description:

    In this book, Gregory Feist reviews and consolidates the scattered literatures on the psychology of science, then calls for the establishment of the field as a unique discipline. He offers the most comprehensive perspective yet on how science came to be possible in our species and on the important role of psychological forces in an individual's development of scientific interest, talent, and creativity. Without a psychological perspective, Feist argues, we cannot fully understand the development of scientific thinking or scientific genius.The author explores the major subdisciplines within psychology as well as allied areas, including biological neuroscience and developmental, cognitive, personality, and social psychology, to show how each sheds light on how scientific thinking, interest, and talent arise. He assesses which elements of scientific thinking have their origin in evolved mental mechanisms and considers how humans may have developed the highly sophisticated scientific fields we know today. In his fascinating and authoritative book, Feist deals thoughtfully with the mysteries of the human mind and convincingly argues that the creation of the psychology of science as a distinct discipline is essential to deeper understanding of human thought processes.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13348-6
    Subjects: Psychology, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. Part One Psychology of Science

    • Chapter 1 Psychology of Science and the Studies of Science
      (pp. 3-36)

      Science and scientific thinking, as prototypes of human thought and understanding, have long fascinated scholars and thinkers in philosophy, history, and more recently, sociology. Indeed, philosophy of science, history of science, and sociology of science are well-developed disciplines. By contrast, psychology of science is an infant that has much to learn from the other, more mature metasciences. My intent in this chapter is to examine the developmental paths taken by the three major players in science studies—history, philosophy, and sociology—as a means for understanding what may be necessary for psychology of science to establish itself as a viable...

    • Chapter 2 Biological Psychology of Science
      (pp. 37-52)

      The reasoning behind this chapter on the biological psychology of science stems from two basic observations. First, I start with the most fundamental, if not obvious, of observations: the brain controls almost every single behavior we exhibit—from breathing to writing a symphony (the only exception is reflexes). If we want to understand any aspect of human behavior, we must start with the brain. Second, contrary to what some think is true, our genotype is not our destiny but rather our starting point. That is, what happens between the formation of the genotype and the expression of phenotype is experience,...

    • Chapter 3 Developmental Psychology of Science
      (pp. 53-82)

      Developmental psychology is very well suited for studying scientific behavior and thought because scientific reasoning, interest, and achievement do develop; they do not just come out of nowhere. Developmental psychologists are good at studying not only change, but also the kind of change (linear or nonlinear, positive or negative), the mechanisms of change, and the structure of the change. Scientific thought and behavior in individuals do change and evolve with age. Developmental psychology in general and developmental psychology of science in particular has quite a story to tell concerning how people reason about science and math, how they construct theories...

    • Chapter 4 Cognitive Psychology of Science
      (pp. 83-109)

      Two quotations go right to the heart of this chapter. First is one by the cognitive psychologist of science Ryan Tweney: “Science is by its very nature a cognitive act!” Second, the historian of science Arthur I. Miller had this to say about Piaget, philosophy, cognitive science, psychology, and science: “The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget made it abundantly clear that the basic problem faced by psychology, philosophy, and science is how knowledge emerges from sense perceptions or data. . . . Piaget wondered essentially about a paradox discussed by Plato in theMeno:How can new concepts emerge from ones...

    • Chapter 5 Personality Psychology of Science
      (pp. 110-124)

      Humans are not alone in the uniqueness and variability of individual members of the species. Individuals within every living species exhibit differences or variability. In fact, variation and selection are the two cornerstones of evolutionary theory. But the degree to which individual humans vary from one another, both physically and psychologically, is quite astonishing and somewhat unique among species. Some of us are quiet and introverted, others crave social contact and stimulation; some of us are calm and even-keeled, whereas others are highstrung and persistently anxious. What is the connection between our personalities and our scientific interest, ability, and talent?...

    • Chapter 6 Social Psychology of Science
      (pp. 125-144)

      Science is unquestionably a cognitive activity, but it is also unquestionably a highly social activity, with much work being done cooperatively or competitively with other research teams. The social-cognitive and attributional perspectives, with their emphasis on cognitive heuristics, biases, and causal explanations, can complement the work I cited on cognitive psychology of science (see chapter 4). Addressing the social factors involved in science, the field of social psychology of science finds itself in an unusual situation. It is potentially one of the richest and most stimulating areas in the psychology of science, but as yet it remains more latent than...

    • Chapter 7 The Applications and Future of Psychology of Science
      (pp. 145-156)

      Given the unique status of science and creative thinking as a hallmark capacity of our species and its dominant role in shaping modern culture, one would think that psychologists would have more systematically devoted their attention, methods, and theories to understanding the psychology of science and that other disciplines that study science would gladly make use of these contributions. Neither has been the case. The history, philosophy, and sociology of science is each well established and institutionalized. But psychology, like anthropology, is somewhere between the second and third stages (Isolation and Identi-fication) of development (see chapter 1).

      In part 1...

  6. Part Two Origins and Future of the Scientific Mind

    • Chapter 8 Evolution of the Human Mind
      (pp. 159-185)

      How did the human mind become capable of doing science, in all of its symbolic, mathematical, and highly specialized forms? Like all things natural, something as complex as the human brain did not appear overnight; it emerged from simpler and more rudimentary structures. This is true for the scientific mind and scientific thinking as well. Modern, explicit scientific thought evolved out of the incipient, implicit folk domains of mind (common sense). Knowing the path and history of how scientific thinking came about in our species gives us a richer and fuller appreciation of its development in modern individuals. The second...

    • Chapter 9 Origins of the Scientific Thinking
      (pp. 186-217)

      When we look for the origins of science, and how and when it began to emerge as a distinct intellectual process, we must focus not just on the very recent expression of pure science and modern science as codified in the “scientific method.” That is but the most elaborate and codified expression of ancient cognitive and epistemological processes. Different forms of science have been around not for hundreds or even thousands of years, but rather for millions of years. Obviously the “science” ofH. erectusorH. neanderthalensiswas a very different kind of science from what we know today,...

    • Chapter 10 Science, Pseudoscience, and Antiscience
      (pp. 218-236)

      Many Americans still seem quite willing to believe things that science and skeptics would just as easily dismiss. Michael Shermer reported in his bookWhy People Believe Weird Thingspercentages of Americans in 1991 who believed in the following paranormal experiences: 67 percent had actually had a psychic experience; 65 percent believed in Noah’s flood; 52 percent believed in astrology; 46 percent believed in extrasensory perception (ESP); and 42 percent believed in communication with the dead.¹

      Ever since the 1930s, when Karl Popper first argued for falsification as the main criterion for demarcating science from nonscience, the topic of “pseudoscience”...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 237-258)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-301)
  9. Index
    (pp. 302-316)