how social scientists think week
After several days of posts on a pie-in-the-sky idea about military intervention against the LRA (See here, here, and here for arguments as to why it's a bad idea that won't work and here for a defense of it) and overstated claims about impending genocide in South Sudan from an actor and a celebrity-courting advocate, I'm reminded of a fundamental truth: advocates and academics think differently.
Not that any of this is really news, but I've been thinking a lot lately about the ways that social scientists consider evidence, facts, and forecasting in light of the way that our jobs as researchers are different from those whose job it is to persuade others to take action on an issue. Academic researchers are trained to think in particular ways. In the social sciences, we are trained to take the most messy of subjects - human behavior - and think about it in systematic ways that explain causal relationships between phenomena. Advocates, though, are trained to stir emotions and to draw personal connections between international events and Western students, consumers, and families.
I think this difference in training and purpose accounts for a lot of the disconnect between academics and advocates on a number of policy questions (eg, conflict minerals in the DRC). So I thought it might be useful to spend a few days this week explaining how those of us in the social sciences think. Stay tuned for the first post in the series tomorrow. Here's hoping it's not mind-bogglingly boring.
Labels: how social scientists think