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Mar 13th, 2020: Dorothy Bishop

Why scientific reasoning is hard: The role of cognitive constraints in biasing our reasoning

Moderated by: Nicole Janz

Abstract


Much has been written about how we might tackle the so-called "replication crisis". There have been two lines of attack. First, there are those who emphasise the need for better training in experimental design and statistics. Second, it is recognised that we need a radical overhaul of the incentive structure of science. I shall argue, however, that to improve scientific practices we need to go deeper, to understand and counteract the mechanisms that maintain bad practices – not just at the institutional level, but in individual people. Misunderstanding of statistics, and the incentive structure that has evolved, have their roots in human cognition. I shall discuss how scientific thinking is not natural for humans: biased attention in conditions of information overload, use of cognitive schemata, and asymmetric moral reasoning all play a part in sustaining maladaptive scientific practices.


Speaker Bio


Dorothy Bishop is Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology at the University of Oxford, where she heads an ERC-funded programme of research into brain lateralisation. She is a supernumerary fellow of St John’s College Oxford. Her main research interests are in the nature and causes of developmental language impairments, with a particular focus on psycholinguistics, neurobiology and genetics. Beyond psychology, she is active in the field of open science and research reproducibility, and in 2015 she chaired a symposium by the Academy of Medical Sciences on 'Reproducibility and Reliability of Biomedical Research'. She is chair of the Advisory Board of the UK Reproducibility Network and a founder member of Reproducible Research Oxford, UKRN's local hub. She is active on social media, with a popular blog, Bishopblog, and she tweets as @deevybee.