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Lecture 5

Lecture 5 February 7.docx

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Matthias Koenig

SOC377- February 7 Lecture Summary of last week - Introduced basic idea of methodological individualism: ontological (individuals against social entities) and explanatory version - Coleman trying to bridge micro and macro level – methodological individualism based on strict rational choice, actors and maximizing utility, social norms (2 step explanation: first on interest constellations and then sanctions of behaviour on part of system of actors) - Collective phenomena/social vs. individual behaviour Today - Start with general notes on theorizing and logic of explanation - Social mechanisms - 1 particular mechanism- transformational mechanisms (linking micro to macro) – where we are interested in explaining social outcomes Link to Bourdieu (habitus) Structure of explanation and theorizing - Phenomena of interest: the fact that Broadway shows today receive more standing ovations than 20 years ago? - Explanations/mechanisms: prices have increased for Broadway shows - Changing composition - Changing value due to rising prices – definition of value We have a puzzle for explanation - More standing ovations today than 20 years ago - Let us take: definition of value- changing perception of value due to rising prices - Hypothesis  Explanation How to test and solidify hypotheses: 3 ways (Hypothesis - > Explanation) 1. Spell out more implications - If it is that definition of value has changed (mechanisms) what other things can we formulate to test hypothesis. o Definition of value: depreciation of experience afterwards, once you have paid for ticket you find it nice after o Compare different theatres with different pricing- based on frequency o Today also differences in budget, proportion of money in budget willing to spend – higher propensity to enjoy if spent more on show 2. Alternative Hypotheses- explain phenomena of interest to us, but then the idea would be they also give rise to alternative and additional implications which differ from those derived from baseline hypotheses a. Socialization processes- age effects in propensity of standing ovations, demographic - To understand a phenomena, you need to derive other implications and test against alternative hypotheses that could explain phenomena in different situations- you need to think against yourself to strengthen your hypotheses 3. Strengthen hypotheses by linking it to a broader theory a. Ex: Broadway- increasing prices and increasing evaluation- cognitive disson b. ance – people find solutions to cognitive dissonance- even if show bad, they would reduce cognitive dissonance of over investment o Better than just ad hoc, use another theory to help explain Theorizing in sociology should be seen as an attempt to find explanations for social outcomes, standing ovations in theatre but also segregation explanations work too, social norms You would try and formulate explanations by linking them to a broader theory and spelling out additional implications and testing against alternative hypotheses (craft of theorizing) – through this process we arrive at better hypotheses better grounded in empirical facts. We can also discover new facts via this formula – add to overall knowledge too by finding facts through testing hypotheses 2. Second Part of Lecture- Explanations and linking factors to explanation should work through social mechanisms - Various types of hypotheses found in sociological Theories - 1. Background on types explanations - 2. What are mechanisms? - 3. How mechanisms are related to methodological individualism  1. Distinction between nomothetic and idiographic understandings of social science - Nomothetic - expect us to find laws about general social reality. These explanations would take form of LAWS. - Hemple – we have phenomena b: standing ovations – explain via 2 elements: 1) general law 2) empirical fact that one element of the law is causal facto to be found to explain B A B A B - Challenge: to find general laws which will be able to produce explanation – Hard to use in social sciences. - Idiographic- all we can do is describe as detailed as possible social reality. These explanations would take form of THICK DESCRIPTIONS or in story telling (Hedstrom) Focus on mechanisms - Quantitative challenges, probabilistic challenges - No causal account of why standing ovations occur- proponents of mechanisms say - Mechanisms idea is to focus on causal links between the explaining social conditions (whether cognitive dissonance) and the explanundum under investigation/explanation - Thus always – middle range theories (Merton) they try to provide fine-grained explanations that link the social outcome under consideration to the processes to which they were brought about. Mechanisms are not: correlations, simply causal statements, neither story-telling or simple descriptive narratives but rather attempts of unpacking the black box between major explanatory factor and explanundum (opening black box is major goal) Definitions of mechanisms - Mechanisms bringing about or preventing some change – formal – general logic of mechanistic explanation which implies idea that we have distinction of levels (system, macro level, and processes of constitutive elements) - Mechanisms are frequently occurring and easily recognizable causal patterns- some generality, they are not idiosyncratic that occur once, but typical patterns of processes we can find in different situations - (Schelling’s definition) Mechanisms is not hypothesis explaining social phenomena – unpack via focusing on interactions of actions to arrive at 3 step account that is very close to bath-tub model of Coleman Methodological Individualism - Explanation would work through explanation of individuals interaction - We need to find causal agents that pass on cause and effect from overall social condition to like-wise in crisis to the social outcome under consideration- only to be conceived as individual actors who through their action can bring about change and cause social outcome to occur - Complicated situation because 3 mechanisms - 1. Situational mechanisms: explain individuals definition of situation - 2. Action mechanisms: action formation mechanisms, gives us an account of why actors choose one action out of a bunch o Utility maximization o Relaxed in some o Easiest to understand o Coleman’s focus- rational choice, utility maximization - 3. Transformation mechanisms: the most interesting in terms of sociological theory because they are the mechanisms in which the process occurs out of which multiple actors constitute social phenomena’s existence Action formation mechanism focus: Alternative terminology- rational choice approach  Preferences or desires which given the cost benefit calculation result in an action.  Hedstrom says it is a little too simple and takes into account a 3 element, the beliefs of Actor I that enter into equation out of which action results. (bounded rationality) Actors pursue desires but occur under given constraints of information, beliefs, definition, that are captured by general notion of belief- desires Belief can be the result of desire (wishful thinking) – beliefs and desires can influence one another which complicate simple model of rational choice. The explanation has to work its way down through micro level of action but might have more complicated situations with bounded rationality and link between desires and beliefs Transformation Mechanisms - Why the transformation mechanisms are of such great interest? o Because they focus precisely on the link from intended actions to consequences of these actions (either intended or unintended consequences, trans intentionality- located at transition from action of number of individuals and the social outcome under consideration (explanation) o Neglecting them- is a deficit located in surveys- which identify individuals attitudes but do not explain the interaction of actors to explain social outcome- the only transformational mechanism used is simple statistical aggregation o Back to Broadway show example- how does aggregation mechanism explain this phenomenon? When to go beyond simple statistical aggregation?  Action formation, cognitive dissonance, definition of value hypothesis – wishful thinking mechanism- transformation mechanism that is a simple statistical aggregation (we do have it)  But also could be
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