Steven Brown, Evaluation and Measurement
Steven Brown, Evaluation and Measurement; Amanda Wolf, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand; and James Rhoads, Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, presented “An Abductory Examination of Abduction” at the 33rd annual meeting of the International Society for the Scientific Study of Subjectivity in Glasgow, Scotland, on Sept. 9, 2017.
Summary: As a mode of inference, abduction proposes plausible explanations for observed effects; i.e., whereas deduction argues from the general to particulars and induction generalizes from specifics, abduction argues from effects to likely causes. Abduction is more than just a mode of inference, however, it also places emphasis on guessing in the discovery of a new idea (the likely cause) and implicates the role that technology and methodology play in the processes and circumstances of discovery. An experiment is carried out to reveal the variety of abductory thinking in which participants engage when confronted with a puzzling situation––in this instance, a hypothetical setting of a deserted picnic: What could explain this situation? Participants employed a sample of 20 different explanations of “the deserted picnic,” rank-ordering them in a Q sort from plausible to implausible, with the resulting Q factors pointing to different strains of abductive thinking, rendered ostensible through measurement. A conclusion reached is that plausibility, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, which translates into more than a single Q factor, which in turn serves the abductory principle of economy by narrowing the range of subsequent avenues of investigation.