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According to Thomas Kuhn, persistent observations that are unexplainable by the current accepted paradigm.
Newtonian physics was a series of successes up until the late 1800's; but, it could never account for the orbit of Mercury (anomaly).
Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) says that scientists working within a discipline share a common set of beliefs (paradigm) which dictates how problems are formulated and their solutions sought. By exploring the implications of the paradigm, these scientists engage in normal science, analogous to puzzle solving. The upside is that a part of nature is studied in great detail, the achievements often being permanent; the downside is that it limits scientists in proposing new phenomenon to explore and new theories to explain. A paradigm shift can occur when the paradigm no longer accommodates new persistent observations (anomalies). The shift is not easy because it involves changing a set of beliefs. There is no strictly logical reason for the change and the Zeitgeist plays a role.
Further Reading:

Kuhn, T. S. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Leahey, T. H. (1980). A history of psychology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Likely, D. (2000). Contemporary ideas about science and the history of science [On-line] Available:

Oxford Companion to Philosophy. (1995). Thomas Kuhn [On-line] Available:

Pajares, F. (1998). Thomas Kuhn [On-line] Available:

Related Terms:
Kuhn, Thomas (1922 - 1996)

Normal science


Paradigmatic stage

Preparadigmatic stage

Puzzle solving

Revolutionary stage


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