Science & Education

, Volume 24, Issue 9–10, pp 1059–1077 | Cite as

Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) Versus Explaining for the Best Inference (EBI)

Article

Abstract

In pedagogical contexts and in everyday life, we often come to believe something because it would best explain the data. What is it about the explanatory endeavor that makes it essential to everyday learning and to scientific progress? There are at least two plausible answers. On one view, there is something special about having true explanations. This view is highly intuitive: it’s clear why true explanations might improve one’s epistemic position. However, there is another possibility—it could be that the process of seeking, generating, or evaluating explanations itself puts one in a better epistemic position, even when the outcome of the process is not a true explanation. In other words, it could be that accurateexplanations are beneficial, or it could be that high-quality explaining is beneficial, where there is something about the activity of looking for an explanation that improves our epistemic standing. The main goal of this paper is to tease apart these two possibilities, both theoretically and empirically, which we align with “Inference to the Best Explanation” (IBE) and “Explaining for the Best Inference” (EBI), respectively. We also provide some initial support for EBI and identify promising directions for future research.

References

  1. Achinstein, P. (1983). The nature of explanation. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bonawitz, E. B., & Lombrozo, T. (2012). Occam’s rattle: Children’s use of simplicity and probability to constrain inference. Developmental Psychology, 48, 1156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bromberger, S. (1966). Why-questions. In R. G. Colodny (Ed.), Mind and cosmos: Essays in contemporary science and philosophy (pp. 86–110). Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press.Google Scholar
  4. Chi, M. T., de Leeuw, N., Chiu, M., & LaVancher, C. (1994). Eliciting self-explanations improves understanding. Cognitive Science, 18, 439–477.Google Scholar
  5. Chi, M. T., Roy, M., & Hausmann, R. G. (2008). Observing tutorial dialogues collaboratively: Insights about human tutoring effectiveness from vicarious learning. Cognitive Science, 32, 301–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chi, M. T., Siler, S. A., Jeong, H., Yamauchi, T., & Hausmann, R. G. (2001). Learning from human tutoring. Cognitive Science, 25, 471–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chi, M. T., & Wylie, R. (2014). The ICAP framework: Linking cognitive engagement to active learning outcomes. Educational Psychologist, 49(4), 219–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Craver, C. F., & Ohio Library and Information Network. (2007). Explaining the brain. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Duncan, R. G., & Gotwals, A. W. (2015). A tale of two progressions: On the benefits of careful comparisons. Science Education, 99, 410–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Duncan, R. G., Rogat, A. D., & Yarden, A. (2009). A learning progression for deepening students’ understandings of modern genetics across the 5th–10th grades. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46, 655–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duschl, R. A. (1990). Restructuring science education: The importance of theories and their development. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  12. Edwards, B. J., Williams, J. J., & Lombrozo, T. (2013). Effects of explanation and comparison on category learning. In Proceedings of the 35th annual conference of the cognitive science society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.Google Scholar
  13. Eggert, S., & Bögeholz, S. (2010). Students’ use of decision-making strategies with regard to socioscientific issues: An application of the rasch partial credit model. Science Education, 94, 230–258.Google Scholar
  14. Friedman, M. (1974). Explanation and scientific understanding. The Journal of Philosophy, 71, 5–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Garfinkel, A. (1980). Forms of explanation. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gentner, D., & Markman, A. B. (1997). Structure mapping in analogy and similarity. American Psychologist, 52(1), 45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gopnik, A. (1998). Explanation as orgasm. Minds and Machines, 8(1), 101–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gotwals, A. W., & Songer, N. B. (2010). Reasoning up and down a food chain: Using an assessment framework to investigate students’ middle knowledge. Science Education, 94, 259–281.Google Scholar
  19. Hammer, D., & Sikorski, T. (2015). Implications of complexity for research on learning progressions. Science Education, 99, 424–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Harman, G. H. (1965). The inference to the best explanation. The Philosophical Review, 74(1), 88–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hastie, R., & Pennington, N. (2000). Explanation-based decision making. In T. Connolly, H. R. Arkes & K. R. Hammond (Eds.), Judgment and decision making: An interdisciplinary reader (2nd ed., pp. 212–228). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Hume, D. (2000). An enquiry concerning human understanding: A critical edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Jefferys, W. H., & Berger, J. O. (1992). Ockham’s razor and Bayesian analysis. American Scientist, 80, 64–72.Google Scholar
  24. Kelly, K. T. (2007). How simplicity helps you find the truth without pointing at it. In V. Harazinov, M. Friend, & N. Goethe (Eds.), Induction, algorithmic learning theory, and philosophy (pp. 111–143) Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  25. Legare, C., & Lombrozo, T. (2014). The selective benefits of explanation on learning in early childhood. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 126, 198–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lehrer, R., & Schauble, L. (2006). Scientific thinking and science literacy. In K. A. Renninger, I. E. Sigel, W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (Vol. 4, pp. 153–196). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  27. Lehrer, R., & Schauble, L. (2015). Learning progressions: The whole world is NOT a stage. Science Education, 99, 432–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lipton, P. (2004). Inference to the best explanation. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Lombrozo, T. (2006). The structure and function of explanations. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10, 464–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lombrozo, T. (2007). Simplicity and probability in causal explanation. Cognitive Psychology, 55, 232–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lombrozo, T. (2012). Explanation and abductive inference. In K. J. Holyoak & R. G. Morrison (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning, (pp. 260–276). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. McNamara, D. S. (2004). SERT: Self-explanation reading training. Discourse Processes, 38(1), 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Papineau, D. (1993). Philosophical naturalism. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  34. Pennington, N., & Hastie, R. (1986). Evidence evaluation in complex decision making. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pennington, N., & Hastie, R. (1988). Explanation-based decision making: Effects of memory structure on judgment. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 14(3), 521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pennington, N., & Hastie, R. (1992). Explaining the evidence: Tests of the story model for juror decision making. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62(2), 189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Persson, J. (2007). IBE and EBI. In J. Persson & P. Ylikoski (Eds.), Rethinking explanation (pp. 137–147). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Quine, W. V. O. (1951). Two dogmas of empiricism. Philosophical Review, 60(1), 20–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Renkl, A., & Atkinson, R. K. (2002). Learning from examples: Fostering self-explanations in computer-based learning environments. Interactive Learning Environments, 10(2), 105–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rozenblit, L., & Keil, F. (2002). The misunderstood limits of folk science: An illusion of explanatory depth. Cognitive Science, 26, 521–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Salmon, W. C. (1984). Scientific explanation and the causal structure of the world. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Schank, R. C. (2011). Teaching minds: How cognitive science can save our schools. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  43. Sobel, D. M., Yoachim, C. M., Gopnik, A., Meltzoff, A. N., & Blumenthal, E. J. (2007). The blicket within: Preschoolers’ inferences about insides and causes. Journal of Cognition and Development, 8(2), 159–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Van Fraassen, B. C. (1980). The scientific image. Oxford; New York: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Walker, C. M., Lombrozo, T., Legare, C. H., & Gopnik, A. (2014). Explaining prompts children to privilege inductively rich properties. Cognition, 133, 343–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wilkenfeld, D. A. (2013). Understanding as representation manipulability. Synthese, 190(6), 997–1016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wilkenfeld, D. A. (2014). Functional explaining: A new approach to the philosophy of explanation. Synthese, 191(14), 3367–3391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Williams, J. J., & Lombrozo, T. (2010). The role of explanation in discovery and generalization: Evidence from category learning. Cognitive Science, 34, 776–806.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Williams, J. J., & Lombrozo, T. (2013). Explanation and prior knowledge interact to guide learning. Cognitive Psychology, 66(1), 55–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Williams, J. J., Lombrozo, T., & Rehder, B. (2013). The hazards of explanation: Overgeneralization in the face of exceptions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142(4), 1006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wittgenstein, L., & Anscombe, G. E. M. (2001). Philosophical investigations: The german text, with a revised English translation [Philosophische Untersuchungen. English and German] (3rd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  52. Woodward, J. (2003). Making things happen: A theory of causal explanation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Woodward, J. (2014). Scientific explanation. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Stanford: Stanford UniversityGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, 3210 Tolman HallUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations