Scientific Attitudes

The methods and skills used by scientists are intimately connected to a set of attitudes common in the practice of science. A scientific attitude is a disposition to act in a certain way or a demonstration of feelings and/or thoughts. Studies of the actions of scientists have led to lists of scientific attitudes such as displayed below. Some attitudes such as honesty would be expected in any human endeavour, but other attitudes such as tolerance of uncertainty are more characteristic of scientists. Note that scientific attitudes are different from attitudes about/towards science. Also note the exercises available in the top of the left frame on this webpage.

 

 

Scientific Attitude*

Characteristics

critical-mindedness

·        looks for inconsistencies

·        consults a number of authorities

·        challenges the validity of statements

suspended judgment (restraint)

·        recognizes the restrictions in generalizations and theories

·        generalizes only to the degree justified by available evidence

respect for evidence

·        looks for evidence (empirical approach) to support or contradict statements

·        demands interpretations that fit the evidence

·        collects as much evidence as possible

honesty

·        reports all evidence even when it contradicts hypothesis or expectations

·        acknowledges the work of others

objectivity

·        considers all pros and cons

·        considers all evidence available

·        considers and evaluates statements by others

willingness to change opinions

·        recognizes all hypotheses, generalizations and theories as being tentative

·        evaluates evidence which contradicts prediction

·        alters hypotheses when necessary to accommodate empirical evidence

open-mindedness

·        considers several possible options when investigating a problem

·        considers and evaluates ideas presented by others

questioning attitude

·        looks for inconsistencies

·        challenges the validity of unsupported statements

·        asks many questions starting with who, where, when and how

tolerance of uncertainty

·        accepts that there is always some uncertainty

·        strives for greater and greater certainty

 

* Most of the attitudes and characteristics are taken from a list originally compiled by M. A. Nay, J. Kozlow and R. K Crocker. Sample reference: M. James Kozlow, Marshall A. Nay. (1976) An approach to measuring scientific attitudes. Science Education 60:2, 147-172 (Abstract)