Cognitive Conflict in Science: Demonstrations in what scientists talk about and study.

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Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2018-01-19
Language: English
Faculty: 7 Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Department: Psychologie
Advisor: Hesse, Friedrich (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2017-12-15
DDC Classifikation: 150 - Psychology
Other Keywords:
Meaning Maintenance
Cognitive Conflict
Scientific Attention
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The concept of cognitive conflict, that being two competing ideas in the mind at the same time, encompasses a large number of instantiations throughout Psychology (Festinger, 1964; Heine, Proulx, & Vohs, 2006), even playing an important role in many philosophies considering how science works best (Kuhn, 1962; Platt, 1964; Popper, 1934/ 2005). This experience of cognitive conflict is widely considered to be aversive, but also motivating, for individuals across a wide range of contexts. Here I examined two ways cognitive conflict affects what topics receive scientific attention. Pairing the philosophies of science with Festinger’s (1950) hypotheses about informal social communication, it was hypothesized that: 1. Scientists will discuss things they disagree about more than things they agree about. 2. Scientists will study more those topics which threaten individual or group outcomes. Utilizing publicly available data about scientific publications, I tested these hypotheses within a number of contexts, including public comments on papers, Tweets about papers and topics, and the author and automatically generated keywords describing scientific papers themselves (as a measure of what scientists write about and study). Two studies suggested that more negations in the texts (e.g., but, not, however) were related to larger discussions, more views, and more media attention. Two other studies examined the keywords describing papers, first all papers published across science by PLoS, and then all papers across publishers within Psychology. Both studies suggested that there are more unique negative keywords studied, and that these keywords have more papers written about them, on average. Overall, the results suggest that scientists talk more when they disagree, and that they speak more about threats to the group and individual. This more generally implies that cognitive conflict plays a role in determining what scientists talk about and study, and more generally that general psychological principles can be applied within the context of science.

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