The Cognitive Science of Science
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The Cognitive Science of Science

Explanation, Discovery, and Conceptual Change

By Paul Thagard

A cognitive science perspective on scientific development, drawing on philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and computational modeling.





A cognitive science perspective on scientific development, drawing on philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and computational modeling.

Many disciplines, including philosophy, history, and sociology, have attempted to make sense of how science works. In this book, Paul Thagard examines scientific development from the interdisciplinary perspective of cognitive science. Cognitive science combines insights from researchers in many fields: philosophers analyze historical cases, psychologists carry out behavioral experiments, neuroscientists perform brain scans, and computer modelers write programs that simulate thought processes.

Thagard develops cognitive perspectives on the nature of explanation, mental models, theory choice, and resistance to scientific change, considering disbelief in climate change as a case study. He presents a series of studies that describe the psychological and neural processes that have led to breakthroughs in science, medicine, and technology. He shows how discoveries of new theories and explanations lead to conceptual change, with examples from biology, psychology, and medicine. Finally, he shows how the cognitive science of science can integrate descriptive and normative concerns; and he considers the neural underpinnings of certain scientific concepts.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262017282 378 pp. | 9 in x 6 in 37 figures


$25.00 S | £20.00 ISBN: 9780262525985 378 pp. | 9 in x 6 in 37 figures


  • The problem of scientific cognition is very complex, and cognitive science of science is in its early infancy. This book make a significant contribution to clarifying the issues involved in studying scientific cognition, and outlining proof-of-concept models of possible neural processes involved in discovery, explanation, and conceptual change...I look forward to Cognitive Science of Science 2.0.



  • Paul Thagard was among the first philosophers of science to apply the resources of the cognitive sciences to the study of science itself. This collection of his recent articles provides a lucid and timely introduction not only to his own approach to the subject, but also to the cognitive study of science as a whole.

    Ronald N. Giere

    Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Minnesota

  • This collection brings together Paul Thagard's latest interdisciplinary insights into the workings of science, drawing on his extensive work in historical, philosophical, cognitive, and computational approaches. The broad range of topics here provides an agenda and new directions for future work in the cognitive science of science, especially on the oft-neglected topic of scientific discovery. Anyone taking up the topic will want to see the far reach of Thagard's account of conceptual combination.

    Lindley Darden

    University of Maryland, College Park

  • The cognitive science of science is a rapidly expanding area of science studies and Paul Thagard is one of its pioneers. A collection and expansion of recent ground-breaking work on scientific creativity and discovery conducted by Thagard and his collaborators is thus timely and important. The analyses presented lie at the interface of AI, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy and provide novel ways of thinking about discovery and creativity for cognitive scientists and science studies researchers, as well as for those interested in creativity more generally.

    Nancy Nersessian

    Regents' Professor of Cognitive Science, School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology