Thesis ID: CBB548303720

Entrenchment and Reflection in Science: Three Studies From Animal Behavior Research (2023)


This dissertation contributes to the understanding of knowledge generation by exploring opposed tendencies in the development of scientific methodology — entrenchment and reflection. Entrenchment is intended to characterize, very broadly, how instruments, claims, practices, and other material features of science get baked in. In this sense, it addresses points of fixity or stability. Reflection concerns critical evaluation, reflexivity, and revision. Three cases in the animal behavior sciences are explored: First, the long history of research on the peculiar (alleged) phenomenon of scorpion suicide. Second, the spread of an interpretative principle, Morgan’s canon, in late 19th and 20th-century comparative psychology. And third, the development of maze research in 20th-century psychology. These three cases address a claim, a methodological dictum, and a scientific instrument, respectively. Each case is diachronic, attempting to track the object of inquiry through time, such that dynamics of stasis and entrenchment on the one hand, and critique and reflection on the other, can be observed. Synthesizing from these cases, I hold that given the complexity of the animal behavior sciences and the myriad reasons that claims and methods became entrenched we find significant inherited detritus of past practices out of step with contemporary approaches. In light of this, I argue for renewed appreciation of long-term reflective and corrective processes in science, but, caution that science is not automatically self-correcting and it takes constant work to secure the conditions for self-improvement in knowledge generation.

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Authors & Contributors
Vicedo, Marga
Achinstein, Peter
Bschir, Karim
Chang, Hasok
Clark, Claire D.
Cowles, Henry M.
Circumscribere: International Journal for the History of Science
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
New Books Network Podcast
Cambridge University Press
Harvard University
Princeton University
Bloomsbury Academic
Carocci Editore
Philosophy of science
Methodology of science; scientific method
Animal psychology
Bowlby, John
Lorenz, Konrad
Ainsworth, Mary Dinsmore Salter
Feyerabend, Paul K.
Frisch, Karl von
Harlow, Harry Frederick
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
21st century
18th century
17th century
20th century, early
United States
Great Britain

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