Dual Space Search During Scientific Reasoning

Authors


Abstract

The purpose of the two studies reported here was to develop an integrated model of the scientific reasoning process. Subjects were placed in a simulated scientific discovery context by first teaching them how to use an electronic device and then asking them to discover how a hitherto unencountered function worked. To do this task, subjects had to formulate hypotheses based on their prior knowledge, conduct experiments, and evaluate the results of their experiments. In the first study, using 20 adult subjects, we identified two main strategies that subjects used to generate new hypotheses. One strategy was to search memory and the other was to generalize from the results of previous experiments. We described the former group as searching an hypothesis space, and the latter as searching an experiment space. In a second study, with 10 adults, we investigated how subjects search the hypothesis space by instructing them to state all the hypotheses that they could think of prior to conducting any experiments. Following this phase, subjects were then allowed to conduct experiments. Subjects who could not think of the correct rule in the hypothesis generation phase discovered the correct rule only by generalizing from the results of experiments in the experimental phase.

Both studies provide support for the view that scientific reasoning can be characterized as search in two problem spaces. By extending Simon and Lea's (1974) Generalized Rule Inducer, we present a general model of Scientific Discovery as Dual Search (SDDS) that shows how search in two problem spaces (an hypothesis space and an experiment space) shapes hypothesis generation, experimental design, and the evaluation of hypotheses. The model also shows how these processes interact with each other. Finally, we interpret earlier findings about the psychology of scientific reasoning in terms of the SDDS model.

Ancillary