Scientific thinking

Authored by: Michael E. Gorman

The Routledge International Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138849303
eBook ISBN: 9781315725697
Adobe ISBN:


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In this review, I rely on Dunbar and Fugelsang’s (2005) way of organizing approaches to the study of scientific thinking according to their methodological approach:

In vitro, which corresponds to the biological term for laboratory research. I begin with experimental studies of scientific reasoning, which are in vitro in two senses: they involve laboratory tasks that model scientific reasoning, and the typical participants are college students – perhaps an analogy to the tendency biologists have to use a model organism for in vitro studies.

Ex vivo, in which a scientist is taken out of her or his laboratory and investigated using an in vitro task.

In vivo refers to observing and studying scientists in their working environments, for example, laboratories.

In silico, involving computational simulation and modelling of the cognitive processes underlying scientific thinking, including a diversity of approaches and case studies.

Sub species historiae, or detailed historical accounts of scientific and technological problem-solving, such as detailed studies of Faraday’s notebooks.

In magnetico research, using techniques like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study brain patterns during problem-solving.

Instead of covering every study – which would take an encyclopaedia, not an essay – I will go more deeply into exemplar projects, so that the methodologies and assumptions are clear. 1 I will place particular emphasis on my own work not because it is better but because I have access to all the details.

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