Kinds of Explanations
They are based on our informal observations of the world, but not
necessarily on systematic, careful observation, and not
necessarily on a wide range of other available observations,
They are not necessarily rigorously evaluated against
They are accepted because they come from a trusted source or are
consistent with a larger framework of belief.
Evidence may be ignored or accounted for by after-the-fact
explanations, and they are treated as true rather than tentative.
Unlike scientific explanations, they may be offered as explanations
of anything, including questions which cannot be studied by
They are based on actual experience.
It follows the rules of logic and is consistent with known facts.
You can verify them by experimentation.
It is possible to imagine ways that they prove to be invalid.
They tend not to be complex, to involve fewer assumptions.
They work for a relatively wide range of phenomena.
You are willing to give them up if they prove wrong.
- Rigorously evaluated
They are continually evaluated for consistency with available data,
for parsimony, and for generality.
Methods of Inquiry
- Method of authority
Answer your question by finding out what experts have said.
- Mthod of rationality
Answer your question by starting with self-evident truths and
making logical conclusions on the basis of them.
- Scientific method
- Observing a phenomenon
Observations may be made "in the wild" or in an experimental setting.
- Formulating a tentative explanation
You develop a hypothesis, a tentative, testable statement about the
relationship between variables
- Further observing and experimenting
- Refining and retesting explanations
Take me back to the Rhythm and Cognition
Last updated: 19 October 1995
Copyright 1995, The Trustees of