Both historical reasoning, which is largely postdictive and particularized, and inductive causal inference, which is predictive and general, we claim, can be regarded in a common conceptual framework of social science reasoning. The challenges that social science reasoning poses, we also claim, are largely metacognitive. They require thinking about one's own thought -- evaluating one's ideas in a framework of alternatives that compete with them and evidence that bears on them. They lead to the important achievement of knowing what and how one knows.
Both a richer knowledge base and greater affective investment most likely contribute to making the challenge of skilled reasoning greater when the content is in the social, as compared to the physical, domain. In thinking about such topics, people have a wealth of personal experience and accrued information to draw on and many ideas, but exactly for these reasons they are likely to be attached to these ideas and find it hard to revise them. Both the advantages and the obstacles that familiarity affords make social science reasoning worthy of our close attention. Social science topics are likely both to engage people and to challenge them. This is exactly the combination that gives them such great potential as vehicles for improving thinking.
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