Sociology Index

Paradigm Shift

As sets of assumptions change over time and this process can be referred to as a paradigm shift. With paradigm shift emerges a new way of looking at the world. A framework used in thinking about and organizing an understanding of natural or social phenomena is called Paradigm. Society tends to have relatively fixed assumptions about how to understand and interpret the world, but there is variation in these assumptions from place to place and from time to time. Natural phenomena like the eclipse of the sun, thunder, lightning or flood were explained within a paradigm of religious belief and myth. Today they fall within the paradigm of science.

Thomas Kuhn, a historian of science challenged the conventional wisdom of history that claimed that science was a long, slow process of building on previous knowledge. Kuhn argued that the history of science can be seen rather as a history of dominant paradigms and paradigm shifts. At some point people begin to see things differently and to ask different questions in an attempt to explain their observations and they eventually arrive at a new theory which is a better way to account for the anomalies.

An epistemological paradigm shift was called a "scientific revolution" by epistemologist Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Kuhn presented his notion of a paradigm shift in his influential this book. A paradigm shift is also called radical theory change, a fundamental change in the basic concepts and experimental practices of a scientific discipline.