Psychology of Science and the Scientific Thinking

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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.


If psychology of science is to learn from these other more codified studies of science and develop its own identity, then it must knowingly proceed through similar stages.

As a precursor to discussing the stages of development that other studies of science have taken, it first must be clear on what the psychology of science is.

Although the heart of this book is an elaborate answer to that question, for now suffice it to say that the psychology of science applies the empirical methods and theoretical perspectives of psychology to scientifically study scientific thought and behavior (hence, it is a “metascience”).

At its core, psychology of science is the empirical study of the biological, developmental, cognitive, personality, and social influences of scientific thought and behavior. Scientific thought and behavior are not limited to scientists per se but also encompass thought processes of children, adolescents, and adults who are simulating scientific problem solving and developing mental models of how the world works.
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Just as science can be either implicit or explicit, so too can be the psychology of science.

Psychology in general is and has been the model for the psychology of science. That is, all the major questions and perspectives for an informed psychology of science derive directly from the parent discipline and its subdivisions.

Psychology is a field that currently has five or six major perspectives: biological-neuroscience, developmental, cognitive-perceptual, personality, social, and clinicalmental health.

Biological-neuroscience psychology explores the link between brain, mind, and behavior; cognition examines how we perceive, think, remember, speak, and solve problems; developmental psychology explores how humans change and grow from birth to death; personality psychology investigates how dispositions influence one’s unique responses to the environment and the consistency of these dispositions over the lifespan; and social psychology explores how individuals are perceived and influenced by the real or imagined presence of others.

 Cognitive and social psychologists in particular make use of the experimental method because cognitive and social factors are relatively easy to manipulate.

Just as psychology is the model for the psychology of science, the latter can also be a model for the former. Over the last fifty years, all major subdisciplines in psychology have become more and more isolated from each other as training becomes increasingly specialized and narrow in focus.

As some psychologists have long argued, if the field of psychology is to mature and advance scientifi- cally, its disparate parts (for example, neuroscience, developmental, cognitive, personality, and social) must become whole and integrated again.

Science advances when distinct topics become theoretically and empirically integrated under simplifying theoretical frameworks.

Psychology of science will encourage collaboration among psychologists from various sub-areas, helping the field achieve coherence rather than continued fragmentation.

In this way, psychology of science might act as a template for psychology as a whole by integrating under one discipline all of the major fractions/factions within the field.

It would be no small feat and of no small import if the psychology of science could become a model for the parent discipline on how to combine resources and study science from a unified perspective.

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