Technology and Science

Technology is the use of scientific knowledge for practical ends. At the same time, science is the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. More than 210,000 brief definitions and in-depth, specialized encyclopedia entries on a wide range of issues within these broad disciplines are available from Oxford Reference.

From astronomy, engineering, physics, computer science, and mathematics to life and earth sciences, chemistry, environmental science, biology, and psychology, our coverage includes authoritative, highly accessible information on the most up-to-date terminology, concepts, theories, techniques, people, and organizations relating to all areas of science and technology. Entries are accompanied by illustrative line drawings, equations, and charts, when applicable, and are written by trustworthy specialists for researchers at all levels.

What do you believe is the most common misunderstanding in your field?

The most popular misunderstanding, which I can’t verify is the most widespread, is that phenomena of behavior and mental experience – the subject matter of psychology – can be understood and explained solely in terms of neural systems. It is bolstered by the increasingly prevalent belief that neuroscience can, in theory, replace conventional psychology, is currently replacing traditional psychology, or has already replaced traditional psychology (in its most extreme form). This is a crippling form of reductionism based on the assumption that behavior and mental experiences are closely linked to neural processes, particularly in the brain; however, locating a mechanism in the brain does not equate to explaining the associated psychological phenomenon, as I can easily demonstrate with a Gedankenexperiment and a natural example.

Which entry in your dictionary do you think is the most fascinating, and why?

Asking me to pick a fascinating entry is like asking me to pick my favorite child, and I’m not going to do it. Thousands of the entries excite me, but the entry describing heuristic and the various specific heuristics cross-referenced from it outlines ideas that have captivated others enough to earn the only two Nobel prizes ever granted for psychological study. A heuristic is a quick technique or rule of thumb for making a decision, generating an opinion, or addressing a problem, and we all utilize them regularly. In 1957, US researcher Herbert Simon coined the phrase in its current psychological connotation to describe how human decision-makers with constrained rationality handle problems when they lack the time or resources to investigate all available options thoroughly. He was awarded the first Nobel Prize. Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, Israeli-American psychologists, discovered and analyzed many biases in human thinking that can be traced to particular heuristics two decades later. Kahneman was awarded the second Nobel Prize for this work in 2002, Tversky having died a few years earlier.