Encyclopedia of Science Education

Living Edition
| Editors: Richard Gunstone

Mechanisms

  • Peter Machamer
  • Thomas V. Cunningham
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6165-0_263-2

Synonyms

Cognitive science; Explanations; Learning progressions; Models

A common and successful strategy for explaining something scientifically is to describe the mechanism that produces it. Mechanisms are composed of entities and activities that are, in various senses, in the world. Entities are things that behave or engage in activities. Activities are ways of working that produce phenomena. Succinctly put, “mechanisms are entities and activities organized such that they are productive of regular changes from start or set-up to finish or termination conditions” (Machamer et al. 2000, p. 3). Mechanistic explanations are representations (often verbal descriptions) of mechanisms.

Mechanisms may be described in varying detail. Mechanisms can never be completely described, since, given any context, there will always be more to be said about what is involved in producing a given phenomenon. Since no system is ever completely causally closed, there will always be additional entities or...

Keywords

Internal Combustion Engine Mechanistic Explanation Learn Progression Mechanism Schema Ongoing Scientific Research 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Craver CF (2009) Explaining the brain. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Gobert JD, Buckley BC (2000) Introduction to model-based teaching and learning in science education. Int J Sci Educ 22:891–894CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Haldane JS (1913) Mechanism, life, and personality. John Murray, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Machamer P, Darden L, Craver CF (2000) Thinking about mechanisms. Philos Sci 67:1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cathedral of LearningUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.University of Arkansas for Medical SciencesLittle RockUSA