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General Theory in Social Psychology

by: Julia Caine

General Theory in Social Psychology Soc 201

Marketplace > New York University > Sociology > Soc 201 > General Theory in Social Psychology
Julia Caine
GPA 3.5

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About this Document

These notes cover what a general theory is and why they are important
Social Psychology
Blaine Robbins
Class Notes
general, Theory, social, Psychology, sociology
25 ?




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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Julia Caine on Tuesday September 13, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Soc 201 at New York University taught by Blaine Robbins in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 13 views. For similar materials see Social Psychology in Sociology at New York University.


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Date Created: 09/13/16
General Theory  What is science and the scientific method? o Understanding the world requires four learning processes  Observe  Reason  Generalize  Reevaluate o Processes of reasoning are subject to numerous errors and bias  Limited observations  Selective observations  Choosing observations that align with our beliefs  Overgeneralizations  Illogical reasoning  Often rely on bad assumptions  Resistance to change  Humans aren’t good at reevaluating o How do we minimize errors and bias?  Science: systematic, usually social, enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predications about the universe  Trying to prove yourself wrong  Use scientific method o General theory, derive hypothesis, collect data, revise or maintain theory, start cycle over again  Example o Deterrence theory  More capital punishment=less homicide o Hypothesis  More executions leads to less homicide o Data  # of executions vs homicide rate o Modify scope conditions  What are general theories? o Abstraction and simplifications of the real world used to explain and predict the world  Create an abstract world  Example is Weber’s “ideal types” o Thus, general theories:  Abstract  Simplify  Explain  Predict o Example  Why social revolutions occur  Don’t want to focus only on one revolution  Also don’t want to focus on too many factors o The sun is need to sustain life, which is needed for revolutions, but the sun in present when there is revolutions and when there is not  Look at theories like a spotlight instead of a flood light o Theories have six components  Concepts  Abstractions communicated by words or other signs and symbols that refer to common properties among phenomena  Examples: Concepts of mammals o Live birth o Produce milk o Hair o Use these to differentiate from other organisms  Find commonalities in core features  The “rules” of concept formation o Focus on similarities and differences o Define in terms of precise, reliable observations  Assumptions  An overly simplistic, yet useful, proposition or statement which is based on presuppositions without facts, that is taken for granted as if it were true o Scientists often test propositions, not assumptions  May change assumptions based on test of propositions  Assumptions are made since: o Scientists are concerned with observable reality o Scientists are unable to make complete observations of the empirical world o Without assumptions there would be no theory  Propositions  Causal statements about the empirical world o “If X, then Y” o Must start with assumptions to create propositions  Scope conditions  Specify types of entities to which causal propositions apply o “For all A, if X, then Y” o Takes into account limits of theories  Mechanisms  A discernable process that creates and explains a causal connection  “For all A, if X, then W, then Y” o Why and how does X produce Y?  Models  Abstract depiction of the relationship between entries  Diagram of how the parts- propositions and mechanisms- fit together  What is the function of general theory? o Conceptualize and categorize o Explain and predict o Interpret and understand o Unify and synthesize (sometimes)  Usually if there are two competing theories, hopefully they can be brought together  How do we adjudicate between theories o Good theories are both internally and externally valid  Internal validity is whether or not theory is biased  External validity is how theory holds up in empirical world o Internal validity is composed of  Logical  Falsifiable  Concrete  Generalize  Fruitful  Parsimonious


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