The object bias and the study of scientific revolutions: Lessons from developmental psychology

Philosophical Psychology 20 (4):479 – 503 (2007)
I propose a new perspective on the study of scientific revolutions. This is a transformation from an object-only perspective to an ontological perspective that properly treats objects and processes as distinct kinds. I begin my analysis by identifying an object bias in the study of scientific revolutions, where it takes the form of representing scientific revolutions as changes in classification of physical objects. I further explore the origins of this object bias. Findings from developmental psychology indicate that children cannot distinguish processes from objects until the age of 7, but they have already developed a core system of object knowledge as early as 4 months of age. The persistence of this core system is responsible for the object bias among mature adults, i.e., the tendency to apply knowledge of physical objects to temporal processes. In light of the distinction between physical objects and temporal processes, I redraw the picture of the Copernican revolution. Rather than seeing it as a taxonomic shift from a geocentric to a heliocentric cosmology, we should understand it as a transformation from a conceptual system that was built around an object concept to one that was built around a process concept.
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DOI 10.1080/09515080701441744
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Nancy J. Nersessian (1984). Faraday to Einstein: Constructing Meaning in Scientific Theories. Distributors for the United States and Canada, Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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