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New understanding of scientific reasoning

Recent developments in cognitive science are challenging commonly held assumptions about the nature of mind and cognition. An EU initiative explored the implications of this work for our understanding of scientific inquiry.
New understanding of scientific reasoning
New approaches to cognition reject the idea that thinking is disembodied symbol processing, instead stressing the importance of interaction between brain, body and world. In fact, according to the so-called extended cognition thesis, the link between internal thought processes and external objects is sometimes so close that external objects become part of the cognitive process itself.

With this in mind, the EU-funded COGNITION IN SCIENCE (Science as extended cognition: The role of material culture in scientific reasoning) project set out to explore the implications of the extended cognition thesis for our understanding of the material dimension of scientific inquiry.

Using existing literature on extended cognition in philosophy of mind and cognitive science, project partners developed several innovative theoretical concepts for investigating the function of material culture in science. For example, the project offered a new analysis of the use of instruments in science by drawing on the concept of extended perception. It also showed that scientific understanding can extend beyond the brain to external devices such as formulas, graphs and diagrams. These novel theoretical notions led to a better understanding of scientific inquiry that reveals the vital role of material culture in realising scientists' cognitive processes and mental states.

The COGNITION IN SCIENCE team also demonstrated the wide-ranging implications of extended cognition for a range of issues in philosophy of science. For example, the idea that the use of scientific instruments involves extended perception challenges existing views of the role of instruments in the creation of scientific knowledge, while the project’s analysis of extended understanding suggests a new picture of the nature of scientific understanding and its relationship to explanation in science.

School visits, a public exhibition and a workshop disseminated project outcomes to the public and raised awareness of a new way of thinking about the nature of scientific inquiry.

By examining the impact of extended cognition for an understanding of scientific reasoning, COGNITION IN SCIENCE will contribute to the overall intellectual, cultural and everyday significance of science in modern European society.

Related information


Cognitive science, scientific reasoning, extended cognition, COGNITION IN SCIENCE
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