Experimental Philosophy of Science and Philosophical Differences across the Sciences

Robinson, B., Gonnerman, C. & O’Rourke, M.
(forthcoming) – Philosophy of Science  (Available as preprint on the PhilSci Archive.)
Abstract

This paper contributes to the underdeveloped field of experimental philosophy of science. We examine variability in the philosophical views of scientists. Using data from Toolbox Dialogue Initiative, we analyze scientists’ responses to prompts on philosophical issues (methodology, confirmation, values, reality, reductionism, and motivation for scientific research) to assess variance in the philosophical views of physical scientists, life scientists, and social and behavioral scientists. We find six prompts about which differences arose, with several more that look promising for future research. We then evaluate the difference between the natural and social sciences and the challenge of interdisciplinary integration across scientific branches.

A Cross-Cultural Assessment of the Semantic Dimensions of Intellectual Humility

Christen, M., Alfano, M., & Robinson, B.
(2017) – AI & Society DOI 10.1007/s00146- 017-0791-7
Abstract

Intellectual humility can be broadly construed as being conscious of the limits of one’s existing knowledge and capable of acquiring more knowledge, which makes it a key virtue of the information age. However, the claim “I am (intellectually) humble” seems paradoxical in that someone who has the disposition in question would not typically volunteer it. There is an explanatory gap between the meaning of the sentence and the meaning the speaker expresses by uttering it. Therefore, measuring intellectual humility via self-report may be methodologically unsound. As a consequence, we suggest analyzing intellectual humility semantically, using a psycholexical approach that focuses on both synonyms and antonyms of ‘intellectual humility’. We present a thesaurus-based methodology to map the semantic space of intellectual humility and the vices it opposes as a heuristic to support analysis and diagnosis of this disposition. We performed the mapping both in English and German in order to test for possible cultural differences in the understanding of intellectual humility. In both languages, we find basically the same three semantic dimensions of intellectual humility (sensibility, discreetness, and knowledge dimensions) as well as three dimensions of its related vices (self-overrating, other-underrating and dogmatism dimensions). The resulting semantic clusters were validated in an empirical study with English (n=276) and German (n=406) participants. We find medium to high correlations (0.54-0.72) between thesaurus similarity and perceived similarity, and we can validate the labels of the three dimensions identified in the study. But we also find indications of the limitations of the thesaurus methodology in terms of cluster plausibility. We conclude by discussing the importance of these findings for constructing psychometric measures of intellectual humility via self-report vs. computer models.

Development and validation of a multi-dimensional measure of intellectual humility.

Alfano, M., Iurino, K., Robinson, B., Stey, P., Christen, M., Yu, F., & Lapsley, D.
(2017) – PLOS ONE 12(8): e0182950. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0182950.
Abstract

This paper presents five studies on the development and validation of a scale of intellectual humility. This scale captures cognitive, affective, behavioral, and motivational components of the construct that have been identified by various philosophers in their conceptual analyses of intellectual humility. We find that intellectual humility has four core dimensions: Open-mindedness (versus Arrogance), Intellectual Modesty (versus Vanity), Corrigibility (versus Fragility), and Engagement (versus Boredom). These dimensions display adequate self- informant agreement, and adequate convergent, divergent, and discriminant validity. In particular, Open-mindedness adds predictive power beyond the Big Six for an objective behavioral measure of intellectual humility, and Intellectual Modesty is uniquely related to Narcissism. We find that a similar factor structure emerges in Germanophone participants, giving initial evidence for the model’s cross-cultural generalizability.

Gossip as a Burdened Virtue.

Alfano, M. & Robinson, B.
(2017) – Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (3): 473-487. DOI: 10.1007/s10677-017-9809-y.
Abstract

Gossip is often serious business, not idle chitchat. Gossip allows those oppressed to privately name their oppressors as a warning to others. Of course, gossip can be in error. The speaker may be lying or merely have lacked sufficient evidence. Bias can also make those who hear the gossip more or less likely to believe the gossip. By examining the social functions of gossip and considering the differences in power dynamics in which gossip can occur, we contend that gossip may be not only permissible but virtuous, both as the only reasonable recourse available and as a means of resistance against oppression.

I know you are, but what am I? Anti-Individualism in the development of intellectual humility and wu-wei.

Robinson, B. & Alfano, M.
(2016) – Logos & Episteme VII(4): 435-459.
Abstract

Virtues are acquirable, so if intellectual humility is a virtue, it’s acquirable. But there is something deeply problematic—perhaps even paradoxical—about aiming to be intellectually humble. Drawing on Edward Slingerland’s analysis of the paradoxical virtue of wu-wei in Trying Not To Try (New York: Crown, 2014), we argue for an anti- individualistic conception of the trait, concluding that one’s intellectual humility depends upon the intellectual humility of others. Slingerland defines wu-wei as the “dynamic, effortless, and unselfconscious state of mind of a person who is optimally active and effective” (Trying Not to Try, 7). Someone who embodies wu-wei inspires implicit trust, so it is beneficial to appear wu-wei. This has led to an arms race between faking wu-wei on the one hand and detecting fakery on the other. Likewise, there are many benefits to being (or seeming to be) intellectually humble. But someone who makes conscious, strategic efforts to appear intellectually humble is ipso facto not intellectually humble. Following Slingerland’s lead, we argue that there are several strategies one might pursue to acquire genuine intellectual humility, and all of these involve commitment to shared social or epistemic values, combined with receptivity to feedback from others, who must in turn have and manifest relevant intellectual virtues. In other words, other people and shared values are partial bearers of a given individual’s intellectual humility. If this is on the right track, then acquiring intellectual humility demands epistemic anti-individualism.

Character, Caricature, and Gossip.

Robinson, B.
(2016) – The Monist 99(2): 198-211.
Abstract

Gossip is rarely praised. There seems little virtuous that is about talking behind some- one’s back. Whether there is anything virtuous about gossip, however, depends on the kind of gossip. Some gossip is idle, but some evaluative gossip promulgates and enforces norms. When properly motivated, such gossip effects positive change in society and counts as gossiping well. The virtue of gossiping well even includes some kinds of false gossip, namely the sort that exaggerates a pre-existing trait, thereby creating a caricature of a person’s character in order to establish a moral exemplar (or anti-exemplar).

Human Values and The Value of Humanities in Interdisciplinary Research.

Robinson, B., Vasko, S. E., Gonnerman, C., Christen, M., O’Rourke, M., & Steele,D.
(2016) – Cogent Arts & Humanities 3(1): 1-16.
Abstract

Research integrating the perspectives of different disciplines, or interdisciplinary research, has become increasingly common in academia and is considered important for its ability to address complex questions and problems. This mode of research aims to leverage differences among disciplines in generating a more complex understanding of the research landscape. To interact successfully with other disciplines, researchers must appreciate their differences, and this requires recognizing how the research landscape looks from the perspective of other disciplines. One central aspect of these disciplinary perspectives involves values, and more specifically, the roles that values do, may, and should play in research practice. It is reasonable to think that disciplines differ in part because of the different views that their practitioners have on these roles. This paper represents a step in the direction of evaluating this thought. Operating at the level of academic branches, which comprise relevantly similar disciplines (e.g. social and behavioral sciences), this paper uses quantitative techniques to investigate whether academic branches differ in terms of views on the impact of values on research. Somewhat surprisingly, we find very little relation between differences in these views and differences in academic branch. We discuss these findings from a philosophical perspective to conclude the paper.

Virtues and Psychology: Do We have Virtues and How can We Know?

Robinson, B.
(2016) – Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business and Management. A. Sison (Ed.). Springer: New York. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-6729-4_77-1

Building Interdisciplinary Research Models through Interactive Education.

Hessels, A., Robinson, B.,  Larson, E., O’Rourke, M., & Begg, M.
(2015) – Clinical and Translational Sciences 8(6): 793-799.
Abstract

Background
Critical interdisciplinary research skills include effective communication with diverse disciplines and cultivating collaborative relationships. Acquiring these skills during graduate education may foster future interdisciplinary research quality and productivity.

Objective
The project aim was to develop and evaluate an interactive Toolbox workshop approach within an interprofessional graduate level course to enhance student learning and skill in interdisciplinary research. We sought to examine the student experience of integrating the Toolbox workshop in modular format over the duration of a 14‐week course.

Methods
The Toolbox Health Sciences Instrument includes six modules that were introduced in a 110‐minute dialogue session during the first class and then integrated into the course in a series of six individual workshops in three phases over the course of the semester.

Results
Seventeen students participated; the majority were nursing students. Three measures were used to assess project outcomes: pre–post intervention Toolbox survey, competency self‐assessment, and a postcourse survey. All measures indicated the objectives were met by a change in survey responses, improved competencies, and favorable experience of the Toolbox modular intervention.

Conclusion
Our experience indicates that incorporating this Toolbox modular approach into research curricula can enhance individual level scientific capacity, future interdisciplinary research project success, and ultimately impact on practice and policy.

Reversing the Side-Effect Effect: The Power of Norm Salience.

Robinson, B., Stey, P., & Alfano, M.
(2015) – Philosophical Studies 172 (1): 177-206.
(Penultimate draft)
Abstract

In the last decade, experimental philosophers have documented systematic asymmetries in the attributions of mental attitudes to agents who produce different types of side effects. We argue that this effect is driven not simply by the violation of a norm, but by salient-norm violation. As evidence for this hypothesis, we present two new studies in which two conflicting norms are present, and one or both of them is raised to salience. Expanding one’s view to these additional cases presents, we argue, a fuller conception of the side-effect effect, which can be reversed by reversing which norm is salient.

Bragging.

Alfano, M. & Robinson, B.
(2014) – Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (4): 263-272.
(Penultimate draft)
Abstract

The speech act of bragging has never been subjected to conceptual analysis until now. We argue that a speaker brags just in case she makes an utterance that (1) is an assertion and (2) is intended to impress the addressee with something about the speaker via the belief produced by the speaker’s assertion. We conclude by discussing why it is especially diffcult to cancel a brag by prefacing it with, ‘I’m not trying to impress you, but … ’ and connect this discussion with Moore’s paradox and the recent neologism ‘humblebrag’.

The Semantic Space of Intellectual Humility.

Christen, M., Alfano, M., & Robinson, B.
(2014) – CEUR Workshop Proceedings: Proceedings of the European Conference on Social Intelligence 1283: 40-49.

Abstract

Intellectual humility can be broadly construed as being conscious of the limits of one’s existing knowledge and capable of acquiring more knowledge, which makes it a key virtue of the information age. However, the claim “I am (intellectually) humble” seems paradox- ical in that someone who has the disposition in question would not typically volunteer it. There is an explanatory gap between the meaning of the sentence and the meaning the speaker expresses by uttering it. Therefore, measuring intellectual humility via self-report may be methodologically unsound. As a consequence, we suggest analyzing intellectual humility semantically, using a psycholexical approach that focuses on both synonyms and antonyms of ‘intellectual humility’. We present a thesaurus-based methodology to map the semantic space of intellectual humility and the vices it opposes as a heuristic to support analysis and diagnosis of this disposition. We performed the mapping both in English and German in order to test for possible cultural differences in the understanding of intellectual humility. In both languages, we find basically the same three semantic dimensions of intellectual humility (sensibility, discreetness, and knowledge dimensions) as well as three dimensions of its re- lated vices (self-overrating, other-underrating and dogmatism dimensions). The resulting se- mantic clusters were validated in an empirical study with English (n=276) and German (n=406) participants. We find medium to high correlations (0.54-0.72) between thesaurus similarity and perceived similarity, and we can validate the labels of the three dimensions identified in the study. But we also find indications of the limitations of the thesaurus methodology in terms of cluster plausibility. We conclude by discussing the importance of these findings for constructing psychometric measures of intellectual humility via self-report vs. computer models.

Virtue and Vice Attributions in the Business Context.

Robinson, B., Stey, P., & Alfano, M.
(2013) – The Journal of Business Ethics 113 (4): 649-661.
(Penultimate draft)
Abstract

Recent findings in experimental philosophy have revealed that people attribute intentionality, belief, desire, knowledge, and blame asymmetrically to side- effects depending on whether the agent who produces the side-effect violates or adheres to a norm. Although the original (and still common) test for this effect involved a chairman helping or harming the environment, hardly any of these findings have been applied to business ethics. We review what little exploration of the implications for business ethics has been done. Then, we present new experimental results that expand the attribution asymmetry to virtue and vice. We also examine whether it matters to people that an effect was produced as a primary or side- effect, as well as how consumer habits might be affected by this phenomenon. These results lead to the conclusion that it appears to be in a businessperson’s self-interest to be virtuous.

The Centrality of Belief and Reflection in Knobe Effect Cases: A Unified Account of the Data.

Alfano, M., Beebe, J., & Robinson, B.
(2012) – The Monist 95 (2): 264-289.
(Penultimate draft)
Abstract

Recent work in experimental philosophy has shown that people are more likely to attribute intentionality, knowledge, and other psychological properties to someone who causes a bad side effect than to someone who causes a good one. We argue that all of these asymmetries can be explained in terms of a single underlying asymmetry involving belief attribution because the belief that one’s action would result in a certain side effect is a necessary component of each of the psychological attitudes in question. We argue further that this belief-attribution asymmetry is rational because it mirrors a belief-formation asymmetry, and that the belief-formation asymmetry is also rational because it is more useful to form some beliefs than others.

Forthcoming

Constructing and Validating a Scale of Inquisitive Curiosity.

Iurino, K., Robinson, B., Christen, M., Stey, P., & Alfano, M. Moral Psychology of Curiosity. I. Inan, D. Whitcomb, & S. Yigit (Eds.). Rowman and Littlefield: Lanham, Maryland.

Enhancing Interdisciplinary Science through Philosophical Dialogue: Evidence from The Toolbox Dialogue Initiative.

Robinson, B. & Gonnerman, C.
The Toolbox Dialogue Initiative. M. O’Rourke, G. Hubbs, & S. Orzack (Eds.). CRC Press: Boca Raton, Florida.

Communication and Integration in Cross-Disciplinary Activity.

O’Rourke, M. & Robinson, B. The Toolbox Dialogue Initiative. M. O’Rourke, G. Hubbs, & S. Orzack (Eds.). CRC Press: Boca Raton, Florida.

 Disciplinary Diversity in Teams, Integrative Approaches from Unidisciplinary to Transdisciplinary.

O’Rourke, M., Crowley, S., Robinson, B. Laursen, B. & Vasko, S. E.
Advancing Social and Behavioral Health Research through Cross-Disciplinary Team Science: Principles for Success. K. Hall, R. Croyle, & A. Vogel (Eds.). Springer: New York