, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp 525-542

Developmental and Educational Perspectives on Theory Change: To Have and Hold, or To Have and Hone?

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Abstract

Eric Schwitzgebel presents an attractive argument for the use of affective indicators to both assess and extend the 'theory theory' research agenda. A key component of his argument is an account of explanation that can be applied to both children and adults, few of whom possess the attributes and behaviors that warrant being called scientists. The core features of his account include 1) regarding a set of propositions as a theory and 2) subscribing to a theory by accepting and employing this set of propositions to explain events within the theory's domain. We will argue that this account, while potentially helpful for guiding research on the affective content of explanations, requires elaboration because it (1) does not fully characterize what is distinctive and important about theoretical and scientific thinking, (2) raises questions about different kinds of explanations, such as seen in transitions from common-sense explanations to theoretical explanations; (3) favors individual theorizing to the exclusion of socially mediated theorizing, and (4) raises developmental questions about the nature of explanation-seeking and the capacity to apply evidence to evaluate theories.