The golden age of social science

Best paper.

”Hoping that the reader will appreciate that we overemphasize differences in fields (and ignore variation within them), we define them as follows. Anthropology seeks to understand cultural differences in human societies using ethnography, unearthing physical details of human development and exploring mathematical models of coevolution of culture and genes. Economics uses math-heavy methods to understand systemic (general equilib- rium) outcomes of optimization of allocation of scarce resources, particularly money, in trading goods and services. Its main methods include theories rooted in preferences, beliefs, and constraints and analyses of field data. Political science studies formal systems of government, voting, juries, and law, which in- fluence how people make consequential decisions collectively in different systems. Ideology is a central construct, with polls and surveys being a cornerstone method, although media and finan- cial contributions data are increasingly used. Psychology seeks regularity in how people think and behave, with an emphasis on mechanisms and constructs such as memory, attention, and emotion. The main methods are laboratory experiments and psychometric or psychophysiological measures (though cognitive neuroscience uses a greater variety of newer methods). Finally, sociology investigates how the social world is created by and influ- ences how people act in social groups at different levels of formal and informal aggregation. General ideas about functions of social structure are central but are not mathematized as in economics (e.g., economists might focus on allocative efficiency defined mathemat- ically while sociologists might focus on social reproduction of elite success measured statistically or qualitatively).
Readers may view these highly reduced descriptions of their own fields as overly simplified, while perhaps believing that the descriptions of the other fields are not too bad. That perception itself illustrates why communication is a challenge for interdisciplinary work…”


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