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Epistemic Landscapes and the Division of Cognitive Labor*

Michael Weisberg and Ryan Muldoon
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 76, No. 2 (April 2009), pp. 225-252
DOI: 10.1086/644786
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/644786
Page Count: 28
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Epistemic Landscapes and the Division of Cognitive Labor*
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Abstract

Because contemporary scientific research is conducted by groups of scientists, understanding scientific progress requires understanding this division of cognitive labor. We present a novel agent‐based model of scientific research in which scientists divide their labor to explore an unknown epistemic landscape. Scientists aim to find the most epistemically significant research approaches. We consider three different search strategies that scientists can adopt for exploring the landscape. In the first, scientists work alone and do not let the discoveries of the community influence their actions. This is compared with two social research strategies: Followers are biased toward what others have already discovered, and we find that pure populations of these scientists do less well than scientists acting independently. However, pure populations of mavericks, who try to avoid research approaches that have already been taken, vastly outperform the other strategies. Finally, we show that, in mixed populations, mavericks stimulate followers to greater levels of epistemic production, making polymorphic populations of mavericks and followers ideal in many research domains.

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