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  • Print publication year: 1989
  • Online publication date: June 2012

8 - A perspectivist approach to the strategic planning of programmatic scientific research


Fields of knowledge, like other complex stimuli, are selectively perceived in terms of their distinctive features and so our conceptions of science emphasize (and perhaps overemphasize) its empirical hypothesis-testing because it is the defining feature that most distinguishes science from other approaches to knowledge. An identical insight about people might occur to an artistic novelist, a humanistic scholar, an enterprising business person, and a scientific psychologist, these specialists diverging only when it comes to using the insight. The novelist might use it by depicting how it operates in a poignant interpersonal episode; the humanistic scholar might show how it relates to Plato's and Spinoza's insights on the same topic; the business entrepreneur might use it to develop a new marketing campaign; whereas the scientific psychologist might use it to derive predictions that can be put to empirical test.

That science is thought of primarily in terms of its distinguishing empiricalconfrontational aspect is not only understandable but desirable because attending selectively to distinctive (peculiar, unpredictable) features of complex stimuli is an efficient form of information processing; however, like other usually cost-effective approximations, this economical heuristic is imperfect and sometimes misleads by causing tunnel vision which obscures important aspects of the scientific method other than this distinctive empirical-jeopardy aspect. One unfortunate effect is that courses on scientific method typically cover only topics having to do with this distinctive hypothesis-testing aspect, such as experimental design, measurement of variables, statistical analysis, etc., as if the only methods a scientist needs are those involved in putting hypotheses to the test.

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Psychology of Science
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