Usable Social Science
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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Bankers and sociologists seldom work together. Nor do they overlap very much in their social circles. Most of them do not seem to mind this void; some probably like it that way. As coauthors of this book, we are an exception to this principle of noncontact. In this preface, we explain both this anomaly and the circumstances of our collaboration. ...
Introduction: The Problem and Our Take on It
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The starting point of our thinking about usable social science is that all purposeful human action — whether the behavior of individuals, organizational action, or activities by collectivities such as social movement groups — is informed by some kind of definition of the situation in which the action takes place. ...
Part One. Arenas of Usability
1. Space and Time: Constraints and Opportunities
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We focus first on two omnipresent dimensions of human life: space and time. Their very pervasiveness, however, sometimes renders their precise influence elusive. It is not common to find them as chapter headings in books such as this one. Therefore, our gathering of knowledge under these headings as organizing principles for usable knowledge is unorthodox ...
2. Some Dynamics of Cognition, Judgment, and Bias
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In this chapter we present a view of the mind as embedded in its personal history and its contemporary — including its social — situation. Our account yields a special perspective on human nature. Not all its ingredients are new; many echo ancient philosophical traditions that still inform our worldviews. ...
3. Sanctions in Organizational and Social Life
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The play of sanctions — devices to influence behavior by rewarding or punishing — is pervasive in social life. We praise, cajole, withhold love, and sometimes coerce when rewarding and punishing our children. Sanctions are the cement of informal social relationships, as we see in the flow of influence and power in families, friendships, and small groups. ...
4. Groups, Teams, Networks, Trust, and Social Capita
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In perusing the social-science literature, we often find that a research topic — for example, individual stress — is claimed to be both important in itself and more important in social life than ever before. Reasons for this are then given. It is also sometimes claimed that the phenomenon is being studied more than ever before. ...
5. How Decisions Are Made
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In one respect, this chapter is at the core of our efforts because it is the point at which issues of usability of social-science knowledge arise most directly. Decisions include assessment of problems, determining what to do about them, the psychological and social processes that go into making decisions, ...
6. Organizations and Organizational Change
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In this chapter, we provide knowledge on the settings in which most decision-makers live: formal organizations. This knowledge ranges from general to specific, which means that it varies in its usability; some is generally orienting, some more immediately relevant to decisions and actions. ...
7. Economic Development and Social Change
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The fields of growth and developmental studies pose a great challenge to the idea of usable social science. It may seem odd to include a relatively difficult account, but our view is that we learn as much from difficult as we do from easy cases. In the first part of this chapter, we elucidate problems in theory and application. ...
8. Methods of Research and Their Usability
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Our strategy in chapters 1 to 7 was to select important areas in the social sciences — almost all interdisciplinary — and employ our best judgment in identifying findings, perspectives, and theoretical outlooks most usable for people with decision-making responsibilities in organizational contexts. ...
Part Two. The Big Picture of Usability
9. Social Change, Social Problems, and Demands for Knowledge
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Why, we might ask, should human history ever have produced a situation in which society might find it necessary, valuable, and desirable that groups of specialists calling themselves social scientists should specialize in the production of knowledge that might be regarded as useful? ...
10. The Production of Knowledge in the Social Sciences
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In the foregoing chapter, we learned that societies are continuously “demanding” in their search to define their situations, to find their way, to locate answers to specific questions, and to acquire resources to implement decisions. These forces have driven much research and intellectual development in the social sciences. ...
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Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2012