Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences

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Cambridge University Press, Apr 30, 2007 - Philosophy
This book is an expanded and revised edition of the author's critically acclaimed volume Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. In twenty-six succinct chapters, Jon Elster provides an account of the nature of explanation in the social sciences. He offers an overview of key explanatory mechanisms in the social sciences, relying on hundreds of examples and drawing on a large variety of sources - psychology, behavioral economics, biology, political science, historical writings, philosophy and fiction. Written in accessible and jargon-free language, Elster aims at accuracy and clarity while eschewing formal models. In a provocative conclusion, Elster defends the centrality of qualitative social sciences in a two-front war against soft (literary) and hard (mathematical) forms of obscurantism.

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This book is a wonderful guide to understanding how to develop or evaluate explanations for social behavior. An educated layman will find the book very useful in evaluating research studies in the social sciences. This is not a book on social behavior so much as how to create a solid theory or research study to explain behavior and the limitations of various methodologies in developing a fully causal explanation of people's behavior. 

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Contents

Bibliographical Note
212
and
214
Some Canonical Principles of Rationality
215
Violations of the Canon
217
Irrationality
232
Future Selves as Allies
233
Future Selves as Adversaries
236
Textual Interpretation
246

Interpretation and Explanation
52
Rationality and Intelligibility
53
Understanding Civil Wars
56
Bibliographical Note
66
This chapter and the two following ones will be devoted
75
Interest Reason and Passion
78
Id Ego Superego
80
Taking Account of Consequences
81
States That Are Essentially ByProducts
86
Motivational Conflict
89
and Altruism
95
Approbativeness and Shamefulness
98
Transmutations
100
Reciprocity
101
Moral Social and QuasiMoral Norms
104
Imputing Motivations
107
Bibliographical Note
109
Beyond Gradient Climbing
111
Initial
113
utility
117
Pascals Wager
118
We may extend this idea to include temporary and motivated
122
What Is It to Believe Something?
124
Some Errors of Statistical Inference
130
Rationalization
135
Wishful Thinking
136
SelfDeception
141
Bibliographical Note
143
The Role of the Emotions
145
What Emotions Are There?
148
Emotions and Happiness
151
Emotion and Belief
157
Culture and Emotions
160
society did not have the concept of that emotion Individuals
161
Desires and Opportunities
165
Opportunity Explanations
167
Bibliographical Note
177
When Folk Psychology Goes Wrong
178
The Power of the Situation
182
The Spontaneous Appeal to Dispositions
186
The Rehabilitation of the Person
188
Bibliographical Note
189
The Structure of Rational Action
191
Preferences and Ordinal Utility
193
Cardinal Utility and Risk Attitudes
196
Risk Aversion and Decreasing Marginal Utility
200
intrinsic utility
201
Rational Beliefs
202
Optimal Investment in InformationGathering
205
Bibliographical Note
256
Neuroscience
261
Trust
263
Filling In
267
Bibliographical Note
270
Consequences and
271
Differential Reproductive Fitness
274
Natural Selection
275
The Units of Selection
282
Bibliographical Note
285
and
287
Nonintentional Variation Nonintentional Selection
288
Intentional Variation Nonintentional Selection
293
Bibliographical Note
298
Unintended Consequences ofIndividual Behavior
300
Externalities
303
p
308
Bibliographical Note
311
Strategic Interaction
312
A B
314
Two Duopoly Examples
315
Some Frequently Occurring Games
317
Intentions and Consequences
331
Bibliographical Note
343
Lowering Ones Guard
344
Reasons for Trust
346
Reasons for Trustworthiness
347
How Trust May Induce Trustworthiness
350
Bibliographical Note
352
The Collective Consciousness
353
What Social Norms Are Not
357
Codes ofHonor
361
Norms Regulating the Use of Money
365
Norms of Drinking
366
Formation
372
Experimental Findings
373
Pluralistic Ignorance
375
Rumors Fears and Hopes
380
The Living Flag
388
The Technology of Collective Action
393
Making
401
Voting
409
Bargaining
419
Summary
424
Bibliographical Note
425
Institutions
427
The Problem of Monitoring
430
The Organization of Distrust
434
Bibliographical Note
442

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Page 172 - Extend the sphere and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength and to act in unison with each other.
Page 283 - By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention, v Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it.
Page 321 - It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one's judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be.
Page 192 - For the purposes of a typological scientific analysis it is convenient to treat all irrational, affectually determined elements of behavior as factors of deviation from a conceptually pure type of rational action.
Page 80 - From the other point of view, however, we see this same ego as a poor creature owing service to three masters and consequently menaced by three dangers: from the external world, from the libido of the id, and from the severity of the super-ego.
Page 101 - State attachments and state importance have been the bane of this country. We cannot annihilate, but we may perhaps take out the teeth of the serpents. He wished our ideas to be enlarged to the true interest of man instead of being circumscribed within the narrow compass of a particular spot. And after all, how little can be the motive yielded by selfishness for such a policy! Who can say whether he himself, much less whether his children, will the next year be an inhabitant of this or that state?
Page 213 - We talked of the education of children; and I asked him what he thought was best to teach them first. JOHNSON. "Sir, it is no matter what you teach them first, any more than what leg you shall put into your breeches first. Sir, you may stand disputing which is best to put in first, but in the mean time your breech is bare. Sir, while you are considering which of two things you should teach your child first, another boy has learnt them both.
Page 271 - But, for our purpose, a form of Selection, which may be called Unconscious, and which results from every one trying to possess and breed from the best individual animals, is more important.
Page 100 - Only one must not form the narrow-minded notion that the petty bourgeoisie, on principle, wishes to enforce an egoistic class interest. Rather, it believes that the special conditions of its emancipation are the general conditions within the frame of which alone modern society can be saved and the class struggle avoided.

About the author (2007)

Jon Elster is Professor and Chaire de Rationalite et Sciences Sociales at the College de France. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, he is a recipient of fellowships from The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation, among many others. Dr Elster has taught at the University of Chicago and Columbia University and has held visiting professorships at many universities in the United States and in Europe. He is the author and editor of thirty-four books, most recently Closing the Books: Transitional Justice in Historical Perspective, Elementary Social Science from an Advanced Standpoint, and Retribution and Restitution in the Transition to Democracy.

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