Explaining social phenomena based on theories about individual behavior. Lecture Week 4 - Application of Theories Block A 2012/2013Andreas FlacheManu Muñoz-Herrera http://manumunozh.wix.com/apptheories
Overview: Covered topicsWhat we should know by now
It’s been 4 weeks Lecture 1 - Brief intro of the course. Aim of the course: How to apply general theories to speciﬁc research problems This should be done in a scientiﬁcally correct way (i.e., Lave and March model) Lecture 2 - Explanations and Predictions What are explanations/predictions in the social sciences Criteria that deﬁne an adequate explanation (i.e., Hempel and Oppenheim model)
It’s been 4 weeks Lecture 3 - Formal Logic How to formulate and test valid arguments How to generalize and specify concepts and statements Lecture 4 - How to criticize a theory What deﬁnes a good explanation (H&O conditions of adequacy) How to criticize a theory (i.e., rational choice theory)
In summary What is the structure of a scientiﬁc explanation of social phenomena? Criteria for when is an explanation a good explanation- How can we criticize a theory in a fruitful way? Is the theory internally consistent? Can we logically derive the predictions of the theory from the assumptions? Does the theory have empirical content? Can the theory generate testable predictions? Is the theory clearly formulated? Are the concepts in the theory welldeﬁned? (e.i., implicit assumptions)
What next? Speciﬁc sort of explanation in the social sciences: natural approach Starting with assumptions about individual behavior When thinking about a social phenomena, always start thinking aboutthe individuals that caused it. Why do individuals do certain things? Why does the interplay of what many individuals do, create the social phenomena we observe and are interested in explaining?
Example 1: Residential Segregation The case of Amsterdamhttp://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2012/02/14/statistiek-saai-cbs-cijfers-komen-tot-leven-op-een-kaart/ Proportion of niet-westerse allochtonen (non-western immigrants) The Netherlands has a particular way to trace in great detail the residential composition: The postal code (four digits + two letters). This reduces the composition to units of about 15 households. Think about how do you expect to see the map colored?
Example 1: Residential Segregation There is few well-mixed composition, mainly blue (very western) andred (very non-western) There is residential segregation How about Groningen? Think about how do you expect to see the map colored in Groningen?
Example 1: Residential Segregation This is an important social phenomenon to be explained There are political, social, economic implications from it Does high levels of segregation in a city show that people want segregated neighborhoods? And, can mapping segregation in a city tell us why there is segregation and what can we do about it?
Example 1: Schelling’s model ofresidential segregationObserved phenomenon:There is residential segregation Why is there residential segregation?Speculation:People are xenophobic, and xenophobic people choose to segregateOr, if considering our phenomenon is the result of an underlying process: Does residential segregation show that people are xenophobic? What other explanations could there be?NetLogo model library - Model: Segregation http://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/models/Segregation
Example 1: Schelling’s model ofresidential segregation Even if people don’t want to live in segregated neighborhoods it will emerge as a consequence of individual behavior. Even if there are no other mechanisms into consideration (i.e., house pricing, income inequality, and off course preferences) This can be observed in other places, such as the U.S.
Empirical Results on residentialpreferences in U.S. The individual level: Empirical results on residential preferences in U.S. Data from Metropolitan Study of Urban Inequality Data from “Metropolitan Clark and Fosset, 2008 Study of Urban Inequality” “The most common response Clark and Fosset, 2008 sets for ideal neighborhoods are Their summary: in the range of majority or near same-group presence” “The most common response sets for ideal neighborhoods are in the range of majority or near majority same-group presence.”
What have we seen? The interplay of individual actions can bring about, at the social level, somethingthat is not really a one-to-one translation. It is not straightforwards to say that because individuals can be satisﬁed with integrated neighborhoods, there will be integrated neighborhoods This is a very important starting point to think about the difference betweencollectivistic and individualistic explanations in the social sciences.
In this lecture we will: Understand the differences between a collectivistic and anindividualistic explanation. Learn how to construct individualistic explanations of collectivephenomena. Understand the concept of emergence.
Part 1: Collectivistic andIndividualistic explanations
Phenomena in Sociology Sociology is concerned with macro phenomena Macro phenomena describe collectivities such as groups, organizations,neighborhoods, cities, countries, societies. They are distinguished from individual (micro) phenomena which are studied by psychologists. Examples cover phenomena such as gross domestic product, birth rate, incomeinequality, social movements (political protest), opinion polarization, voter turnout(percentage of voters going to the elections): We try to understand: Which factors inﬂuence this, or which factors are inﬂuenced by this?
Phenomena in SociologyStructural approach to Sociology The “whole does not equal the sum of its parts; it is something different,whose properties differ from those displayed by the parts from which it isformed” (Durkheim 1982:128)Durkheim Concluded “The determining cause of a social fact must be sought among antecedentsocial facts and not among the states of the individual consciousness”(Durkheim 1982:134) determine Macro-level Macro-level Émile Durkheim 1858-1917
The structural or collectivistic approach Collective phenomena can and should only be explained with other collective phenomena. The structural or “collectivistic” approachCollective phenomena can and should only be explained with differentiation Typical Example: Durkheim’s theory of social other (Explained by Turnercollective phenomena. 1995:20) - In the process of modernization societies became increasingly differentiated (societiesThis is a typical example from Durkheim’s work (explicated byTurner 1995: 20): complex): in terms of structure of norms, educational systems. became more Durkheim’s theory of social differentiation All phenomena which are argued to causally inﬂuence differentiation, are collective All phenomena which are phenomena. argued to causally influence differentiation are collective phenomena
The structural or collectivistic approach In the collectivistic approach, if you want to really understand a social phenomena, you should not look into individual behavior. What is wrong about this? Nothing! if... Structural explanations can be formulated according to the conditions of adequacy (week 2) But...
The structural or collectivistic approach However, collective phenomena can also be explained on assumptions about individual behavior (individualistic explanation) This is possible even though we accept that “the whole does not equal the sum of its parts” (Durkheim 1982:128) What is more, the structural-individualistic research program (SIR) holds that explanations of collective phenomena should be based on theories about individuals Easier to explain why social structures, norms, etc., change Easier to explain why macro-relationships differ between contexts
The structural-individualistic research program SIP holds that collective phenomena can and should be explained by drawing onthe micro-level. One of the ﬁrst sociologists to propose SI explanation: George Homans Basic model: the Coleman boat (see also McClelland, 1961). George C. Homans James S. Coleman David C. McClelland 1910-1989 1926-1995 1917-1998
The structural-individualistic research program The name: structural-individualistic research program states that the main interest is notexplaining what individuals do in detail (i.e., why did Tom participated in the protest?) The interest relies in explaining macro-level social phenomena from theories aboutindividual behavior. Improved Macro level social Revolution conditions Micro level Frustration Aggression Arguably this happened in the Arab world
Individualistic theorizing insocial sciences Outside sociology: classical economics uses individualistic core assumptions for morethan 200 years. Human beings are self-interested People choose the action alternative that maximizes their goal-achievement Elaborated as formal (mathematical) theory in neoclassical economics and later ingame theory Homo Economicus
Individualistic theorizing insocial sciences In sociology: Around 1960 G. C. Homans: There are no stable social facts (i.e., the things at the macro level) But there is a stable thing along history: human nature (behaviorism) Lets consider as a starting point the thing that does not change (that much), human nature, and use it to explain why in different contexts we ﬁnd different macro phenomena. Hence: Explanations of social facts can best be derived from assumptions abouthuman nature plus knowledge about the speciﬁc conditions under which humans act Hempel and Oppenheim model - law-like assumptions and speciﬁc conditions
The rational choice approachLater (1980’s): rational choice theory. Take the model of man from neoclassical economics, import it to sociology, but enrich it and apply it to social phenomena outside de market Core assumption: The higher the perceived utility of a course of action, the more likely an individual will choose this action Since the 1980’s it has increasingly been elaborated to include more realistic behavioral assumptions: Behavioral game theory (Tutorial 5) Homo reciprocans rather than homo economicus (i.e., Ernst Fehr)
Part 2: Constructing individualisticexplanations of collective phenomena
Main elements of anindividualistic explanation (i.e., Coleman, Lindenberg) Explanandum: Macro relationship Independent Dependent Macro-variable Macro-variable Bridge Transformation assumptions assumptions Input individual choice: Choice options Output: Information Individual choice Theory Costs and beneﬁts... of action
Example: Differences in criminalbehavior between states in the US Why are there differences in the criminal behavior (i.e., homicide, murder) between states in the US? There are very substantial differencesbetween states: National average in the US is: 4.8/100.000 in 2010 Louisiana: 11.2/100.000 New Hampshire: 1.0/100.000
From the RCT perspective: Why? Think about, why would someone commit a murder?
From the RCT perspective: Why? Think about, why would someone commit a murder? From RCT we can consider the relation between costs and beneﬁts: If the beneﬁt of committing a murder is greater than the costs, individuals will commit a murder. Maybe it’s harder to assess the beneﬁt side than the cost side of this!
One possible explanation: severity ofpunishment andexplanation: severity of One possible likelihood to be punished punishment and likelihood to be punishedExample: Association between murderproperties of USother properties of Example: Association between murder rate and other rate and states (around 1970) U.S. states (around 1970). Severity of punishmen Severity of the punishment Likelihood of punishment Likelihood of punishmen Source: Parker & Dwayne-Smith. 1979. American Journal of Sociology. Source: Parker and Dwayne-Smith, 1979.Pearson correlation coefficients Pearson correlation coefﬁcients American Journal of Sociology
Elaboration of an individualisticexplanation (graphically) Severity Likelihood punishment punishment state state Murder rate + + Macro Perceived costs of Probability that an individual committing a murder - will commit murder Micro
Elaboration as argument The higher the perceived utility of a course of action, the more likely an individualwill choose this action (theory of action).Deﬁnition: The perceived utility of an action is the difference between the perceived beneﬁtsand the perceived costs The higher the difference between the perceived beneﬁts and the perceived costs ofa course of action, the more likely an individual will choose this action(ceteris paribus= assuming perceived beneﬁts/costs of alternative actions are equal) Committing murder is an action The higher the difference between the perceived beneﬁts and the perceived costs ofcommitting murder, the more likely an individual will commit murder (ceteris paribus= assuming perceived beneﬁts/costs of alternative actions are equal)
Elaboration as argument (2) The higher the difference between the perceived beneﬁts and the perceived costs ofcommitting murder, the more likely an individual will commit murder (ceteris paribus= assuming perceived beneﬁts/costs of alternative actions are equal) The more severe the punishment for murder is in a state (of the US), the lower isthe difference between perceived beneﬁts and perceived costs of committing amurder in that state (bridge assumption) The more severe the punishment for murder is in a state (of the US), the less likelyan individual will commit murder in that state (ceteris paribus = assuming perceivedbeneﬁts/costs of alternative actions are equal)
Elaboration as argument (3) The more severe the punishment for murder is in a state, the less likely anindividual will commit murder in that state (ceteris paribus = assuming perceivedbeneﬁts/costs of alternative actions are equal) The less likely individuals in a state commit murder, the lower the murder rate inthat state (transformation assumption) The more severe the punishment for murder is in a state, the lower the murder ratein that state (ceteris paribus = assuming perceived beneﬁts/costs of alternative actions areequal) This is what was tested by the regression analysis in the table shown before Same structure can be used for the likelihood of punishment
But then... something to think about The more severe the punishment for murder is in a state, the lower the murder ratein that state & Death penalty is the most severe punishment there is Prediction: In states with death penalty the murder rate is lowerAverage murder rate for states with/without death penalty: 2010: with death penalty 4.6, without 2.9 2009: with death penalty 4.9, without 2.8 Source: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org 2008: with death penalty 5.2, without 3.3 Why??? How to improve the explanation?
What to do if you make wrongpredictions? There is a heuristic. Reconsider your bridge assumption(s) Did you consider all effects of the independent macro condition on costs/ beneﬁts/beliefs, etc. of the individual actor? Independent Dependent Macro-variable Macro-variable Bridge assumptions Input individual choice: Choice options Output: Information Individual choice Costs and beneﬁts...
What to do if you make wrongpredictions?Reconsider your transformation assumption(s) E.g., do individual actions really simply add up? What is the role of e.g., threshold effects, social networks...? Independent Dependent Macro-variable Macro-variable Transformation assumptions Input individual choice: Choice options Output: Information Individual choice Costs and beneﬁts...
What to do if you make wrongpredictions?Reconsider your model of action Did you considered all possible actions? Is the rational choice core assumption justiﬁed? Independent Dependent Macro-variable Macro-variable Input individual choice: Choice options Output: Information Individual choice Theory Costs and beneﬁts... of action
Example 1:A famous experiment Amos Tversky Daniel Kahnemann 1937-1996 1934 Nobel Prize 2002
Condition 1: Imagine that the US is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease, whichis expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to combat the disease havebeen proposed. Assume that the exact scientiﬁc estimates of the consequences of theprogram are as follows: A If program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved If program B is adopted, there is a one-third probability B that 600 people will be saved and a two-third probability that no people will be saved Which of the two programs would you favor?
Condition 1: Answer A If program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved If program B is adopted, there is a one-third probability B that 600 people will be saved and a two-third probability that no people will be saved 72% of the subjects chose A (N=152)
Stop and think... What would we have predicted here using the rational choice theory of action? Core assumption: The higher the perceived utility of a course of action, the more likely an individual will choose this action We need more deﬁnitions: what is perceived utility?Theory 1: Expected utility theory The perceived utility of an action is the likelihood with which the action leads to a certain outcome times the value of that outcome for the individual Perceived utility program A=? Perceived utility program B=?
Prediction expected utility (theory 1) Assuming value= number of people saved, then both programs have the sameexpected utility A= 200 saved; B= 1/3(600)saved + 2/3(0)saved = 200 saved People should be indifferent between A and B, the distribution of choices should beabout 50/50 But this is wrong. Why? How can we improve the theory?
Adding risk preferences (theory 2) We add an assumption to rational choice theory: people have risk preferences, andusually they are risk averse. A bird in the hand is better than two birds in the bush Or: for any three prizes A<B<C, risk averse people prefer B over a lottery with Aand C as possible wins and with expected payoff = B. This explains why most people choose program A in condition 1 of the experiment of Kahnemann adn Tversky
Condition 2: Imagine that the US is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease, whichis expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to combat the disease havebeen proposed. Assume that the exact scientiﬁc estimates of the consequences of theprogram are as follows: C If program C is adopted, 400 people will die If program D is adopted, there is a one-third probability D that nobody will die and a two-third probability that 600 people will die Which of the two programs would you favor?
Condition 2: Answer C If program C is adopted, 400 people will die If program D is adopted, there is a one-third probability D that nobody will die and a two-third probability that 600 people will die 78% of the subjects chose D (N=155) The decision problems are identical with regard to expected payoffs and the riskinvolved. So both Theory 1 and Theory 2 cannot explain this result.
Condition 2: Answer C If program C is adopted, 400 people will die If program D is adopted, there is a one-third probability D that nobody will die and a two-third probability that 600 people will die 78% of the subjects chose D (N=155) The decision problems are identical with regard to expected payoffs and the riskinvolved. So both Theory 1 and Theory 2 cannot explain this result. The different framing (save lives vs. loose them) of the effects leads to differentdecisions
Theory 3 (Prospect theory) Kahnemann and Tversky proposed that people are risk-averse in gains (i.e., actionsthat can improve the status quo) and risk-seeking if it comes to avoiding losses With these three steps we have not abandoned the rational choice model of action, but we havemade it more sophisticated People are more likely to choose the actions with more expected utility, but In gains: expected utility of a risky gamble is lower than for a certain gain with same expected value, and In losses: expected utility of a risky gamble is lower than for a certain gain with same expected value
Currently, is there something better? Much current research focuses on further elaborating the theory of rational actionand making it more realistic as model of real human decision making: Different decision rules (bounded rationality) Social preferences (fairness) Include further assumptions about the perceptions of risk
Example 2:Marx’s theory of revolution Karl Marx Mancur Olson 1818-1883 1932-1998
Marx’s theory of revolution Also Karl Marx developed a macro theory of the evolution of societiesThese are the core assumptions (see Turner 1991): All human societies are organized according to the ownership of property All societies (except communistic societies) are characterized by class conﬂict(=tension between “interest groups”) When classes become aware of conﬂicting interests, they form revolutionarypolitical organizations and ﬁght.
Marx’s theory of revolution A core assumption is the followingThe more subordinate segments of a system are aware of their collective interests [...]the more likely they are to join in overt conﬂict against dominant segments of a system(Turner 1991:188). From a macro perspective this makes sense: the bigger the interest group is, the more likely there will be conﬂict However, from an individualist’s perspective, you would not expect this (see e.g., work by Mancur Olson) Olson argued that collective action (i.e., protest) is less likely in big groups. Why?
Olson’s theory of collective action Key assumptions: Individuals have incentives (g>0) to participate in collective action (i.e., dissatisfaction, more rights, increase in wealth...) Participating in collection action is always costly (c>0) Individuals will participate in collective action when they believe that the utility they derive from their individual contribution exceeds the cost of participation Problem: the bigger an interest group is, the smaller is the impact i of each member (i.e., the bigger a demonstration, the smaller is the impact of a single protestor) U(participation)= g ·i - c < 0Expected gain (small for small inﬂuence i) Cost of participation
Olson’s theory of collective action Nevertheless, we know that people often participate in protest. Olson came up witha solution: Rational actors will participate if there are sufﬁciently strong selective incentives More rights and increase in wealth are collective incentives in the sense that all members of the population can consume them even if they did not participate in the production of the collective good Selective incentives, in contrast, are consumed only by those individuals who participated in the production of the collective good (those who protested) Olson argued that for instance social (social norms) and moral (people feel obliged) incentives might play a role
Olson’s theory of collective actionThus, Olson’s analysis suggests that one should reformulate Marx’s assumption: The more subordinate segments of a system are aware of their collective interests [...] the more likely they are to join in overt conﬂict against dominant segments of a system (Turner 1991:188). If classes provide sufﬁcient selective incentives to motivate individuals, then: The more subordinate segments of a system are aware of their collective interests [...] the more likely they are to join in overt conﬂict against dominant segments of a system (Turner 1991:188). Thus, the micro analysis has provided new information which we might have overlooked had we based expectations only on macro theory
Emergence In the Schelling model (reading and initial example), we found segregation eventhough we did not assume that individuals did want to live in segregatedneighborhoods. Collective phenomena which are unintended in the sense that individuals do not seek to create them, are called emergent phenomena. Note that there are many deﬁnitions of emergence. The core of these deﬁnitions isthat the interplay of individual behavior can create patterns which cannot be directlyinferred from motives of the individuals (see also the discussion by Hempel andOppenheim)
Examples of emergence in thesocial sciences Spatial segregation, even though individuals seek to live in misxed areas (seeSchelling reading this week) Synchronized clapping Lane formation of pedestrians Opinions may polarize even though individuals do not seek to hold differentopinion than others Herding behavior (market bubbles and crashes...)
Emergence: Summary In a sense, Durkheim was correct when he claimed that the whole does not equal thesum of its parts (Durkheim 1982:128). In other words, there are collective phenomena which are not necessarily the consequence of individual motives. However, Durkheim’s conclusion that collective phenomena can only be explainedby other collective phenomena is not correct. There are many theories which explain collective phenomena based on assumptions about individual behavior In addition, the examples demonstrate that micro level theories have the potential toprovide information that we might have overlooked had we focused on the collectivelevel.
The micro-macro problem A core assumption and one of the most fascinating and most difﬁcult problems ofSociology is the interplay between micro and macro: Macro structures can emerge from micro behavior, but then ... they in turn affect micro behavior (bridge assumptions) We can thus not simply extrapolate social outcomes from individual behavior, nor we can infer individual behavior from social outcomes that we see We need carefully constructed theories that make all elements of the micro- macro interplay explicit bridge assumptions theory of action assumptions about transformation
AssignmentRead the corresponding chapter in your reader and do the assignment in Nestor.This is assignment will be graded!