10 Apr 2013

Slides and abstract from invited talk at Gronigen on "The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences"

The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences

Bruce Edmonds

Abstract: Despite overwhelming evidence that many aspects of human cognition are highly context-dependent, generic (that is models that are supposed to hold across different contexts) abound, including: most models of rationality and decision making, and most models that are based on statistically fitting equations to data.  Context itself, especially social context, has been systematically by-passed by both quantitative and qualitative researchers.  Quantitative researchers claim to be only interested in those patterns that are cross-context.  Qualitative researchers only deal with accounts within context.  Neither tackle the nature of context itself: how it works, in what ways it impacts upon behaviour.

Dealing with context is notoriously hard: the concept is slippery and its effects hard to identify.  However, I claim it is not impossible to research.  A combination of rich datasets and newer computational methods could help (a) identify some social contexts and (b) relate what happens within a context to how contexts are collectively constructed.  Such a step could help relate quantitative and qualitative evidence in a way that is better founded and hence, perhaps, open the way to the unification of the social sciences as a coherent discipline.

Slides available at: http://www.slideshare.net/BruceEdmonds/scandal-of-generic-models-gronigen-v3

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