How Do Scientists Respond to Anomalies? Different Strategies Used in Basic and Applied Science


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We conducted two in vivo studies to explore how scientists respond to anomalies. Based on prior research, we identify three candidate strategies: mental simulation, mental manipulation of an image, and comparison between images. In Study 1, we compared experts in basic and applied domains (physics and meteorology). We found that the basic scientists used mental simulation to resolve an anomaly, whereas applied science practitioners mentally manipulated the image. In Study 2, we compared novice and expert meteorologists. We found that unlike experts, novices used comparison to address anomalies. We discuss the nature of expertise in the two kinds of science, the relationship between the type of science and the task performed, and the relationship of the strategies investigated to scientific creativity.