Toward An Integration Of The Social And The Scientific; Observing, Modeling, And Promoting The Explanatory Coherence Of Reasoning


Ranney, M. & Schank, P. (1998). Toward an integration of the social and the scientific; Observing, modeling, and promoting the explanatory coherence of reasoning. In S. Read & L. Miller (Eds.), Connectionist models of social reasoning and social behavior, pp. 245-274. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.


It may seem odd for two cognitive scientists, each with little specific expertise in social psychology, to present a chapter that focuses on social cognition. Indeed, our past work may seem much more in the realm of scientific reasoning than in that of social reasoning. But one question that we have been asking, both of ourselves and of our colleagues, is, “What is the difference between ‘scientific reasoning’ and plain old ‘reasoning’?” Generally, people hem and haw when confronted with this question, then speak of the latter as if it were social reasoning—and quite often, they mention socially based ruminations that involve suboptimal decisions, faulty heuristics, and inappropriately biased values, goals, and the like (see Gigerenzer, 1991; Tversky & Kahneman, 1974, and many others). Useful follow-up questions to such respondents include, “Well, is the difference between these two sorts of reasoning qualitative or quantitative?” Put another way (as many—including Einstein, 1950,—seem to have occasionally wondered), “Is scientific reasoning just (a) more likely to employ formal tools (like deduction or mathematics) and/or (b) more likely to involve the vigilant search for disconfirmation—something that just plain folks (Lave, 1988, p. 4) do, but less frequently?

Read more from SRI