The Scientist as Child
Gopnik (Alison)
Source: Philosophy of Science, Vol. 63, No. 4 (Dec., 1996), pp. 485-514
Paper - Abstract

Paper Summary


Author’s Abstract

  1. This paper argues that there are powerful similarities between cognitive development in children and scientific theory change. These similarities are best explained by postulating an underlying abstract set of rules and representations that underwrite both types of cognitive abilities.
  2. In fact, science may be successful largely because it exploits powerful and flexible cognitive devices that were designed by evolution to facilitate learning in young children. Both science and cognitive development involve abstract, coherent systems of entities and rules, theories.
  3. In both cases, theories provide predictions, explanations, and interpretations. In both, theories change in characteristic ways in response to counterevidence.
  4. These ideas are illustrated by an account of children's developing understanding of the mind.

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