Vol 8, Issue 2, May 2021

Replication, Uncertainty and Progress in Comparative Cognition


Boyle, A. (2021). Replication, uncertainty and progress in comparative cognition. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 8(2), 296-304. https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


Replications are often taken to play both epistemic and demarcating roles in science: they provide evidence about the reliability of fields’ methods and, by extension, about which fields “count” as scientific. I argue that, in a field characterized by a high degree of theoretical openness and uncertainty, like comparative cognition, replications do not sit well in these roles. Like other experiments conducted under conditions of uncertainty, replications are often equivocal and open to interpretation. As a result, they are poorly placed to deliver clear judgments about the reliability of comparative cognition’s methods or its scientific bona fides. I suggest that this should encourage us to take a broader view of both the nature of scientific progress and the role of replication in comparative cognition. 


Replication, Underdetermination, Uncertainty, Experiment, Scientific progress