When Do Anomalies Begin?

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Science  07 Feb 1992:
Vol. 255, Issue 5045, pp. 690-695
DOI: 10.1126/science.255.5045.690


An anomaly in science is an observed fact that is difficult to explain in terms of the existing conceptual framework. Anomalies often point to the inadequacy of the current theory and herald a new one. It is argued here that certain scientific anomalies are recognized as anomalies only after they are given compelling explanations within a new conceptual framework. Before this recognition, the peculiar facts are taken as givens or are ignored in the old framework. Such a "retrorecognition" phenomenon reveals not only a significant feature of the process of scientific discovery but also an important aspect of human psychology.