Standard social science model

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The term the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) was first introduced to a wide audience by John Tooby and Leda Cosmides in the 1992 edited volume The Adapted Mind,[1] to describe the "blank slate," social constructionist, or "cultural determinist" perspective that they claim is the dominant theoretical paradigm in the social sciences as they developed during the 20th century. According to this alleged paradigm, the mind is a general-purpose cognitive device shaped almost entirely by culture.[2]

Alleged proponents[edit]

Steven Pinker names several prominent scientists as proponents of the standard social science model, including Franz Boas, Margaret Mead, B. F. Skinner, Richard Lewontin, John Money, and Stephen Jay Gould.[3]

Alternative theoretical paradigm: the Integrated Model[edit]

The authors of Adapted Mind have argued[4] that the SSSM is now out of date and that a progressive model for the social sciences requires evolutionarily-informed models of nature-nurture interactionism, grounded in the computational theory of mind. Tooby and Cosmides refer to this new model as the Integrated Model (IM).

Tooby and Cosmides[5] provide several comparisons between the SSSM and the IM, including the following:

Standard Social Science Model Integrated Model
Humans born a blank slate Humans are born with a bundle of emotional,
motivational and cognitive adaptations
Brain is a “general-purpose” computer Brain is a collection of modular, domain

specific processors

Culture/socialization programs behavior Behavior is the result of interactions between
evolved psychological mechanisms and cultural and environmental influences
Cultures free to vary any direction on any trait Culture itself is based on a universal
human nature, and is constrained by it
Biology is relatively unimportant to understand behavior An analysis of interactions between nature
and nurture is important to understand behavior

Criticisms[edit]

Richardson (2007) argues that evolutionary psychologists developed the SSSM as a rhetorical technique: "The basic move is evident in Cosmides and Tooby's most aggressive brief for evolutionary psychology. They want us to accept a dichotomy between what they call the "Standard Social Science Model" (SSSM) and the "Integrated Causal Model" (ICM) they favor ... it offers a false dichotomy between a manifestly untenable view and their own."[6] Wallace (2010) has also suggested the SSSM to be a false dichotomy and claims that "scientists in the EP tradition wildly overstate the influence and longevity of what they call the Standard Social Science Model (essentially, behaviorism)".[7]

Geoffrey Sampson argues that the SSSM is based on a straw man. He views Pinker's claim that the SSSM has been the dominant theoretical paradigm in the social sciences since the 1920s as "completely untenable." In his argument, Sampson cites British education policies in the 20th century that were guided by social scientists and which were based on the belief that children had in-built talents and needs. Thus, he challenges Pinker's assertion that the view of the mind among all social scientists is a tabula rasa. Moreover, Sampson only conditionally agrees that the scientists Pinker associates with the SSSM, such as Skinner, Watson, and Mead, were influential, stating, "to identify them as responsible for the general tone of intellectual life for eighty years seems comical."[8] Similarly, Neil Levy appears to concur with Sampson's straw man thesis regarding the conception of the SSSM, against which evolutionary psychologists direct much of their criticism. "No-one—not even Skinner and his followers—," observes Levy, "has ever believed in the blank slate of Pinker's title."[9]

Hilary Rose has criticized Tooby and Cosmides' arbitrary exclusion of economics and political science from their SSSM model which Rose argues is "rather like excluding physiology and biochemistry from an account of the life sciences." She also states that Tooby and Cosmides have publicly indicted sociologists and anthropologists of inappropriate separatist behavior towards other academic disciplines while ignoring their newer efforts that demonstrate the complete opposite. Rose notes how sociologists and anthropologists have many new developments that involve study of the natural sciences and technology. Furthermore, Rose suggests that Tooby and Cosmides' characterization of scientists like Gould, Lewontin, Steven Rose and Leon Kamin as SSSM adherents is based on an inaccurate reading of works like The Mismeasure of Man and Not in Our Genes, two books that have explored the interplay between biology and the environment.[10]

Simon Hampton (2004) contends that evolutionary psychologists' account of the SSSM misses the debate on the existence of psychological instincts in the early part of the 20th century. He argues that "psychological and behavioural thinkers have for long periods been immersed in the implications of Darwinism. It is plainly and factually incorrect for evolutionary psychology to deny this. And it is disingenuous to down-play it. Evolutionary psychologists who use the term 'Standard Social Science Model' and rhetorical equivalents such as 'the neo-behaviourist tradition' [...] and 'the tabula rasa view' [...] undermine their own much-vaunted rigor".[11]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Barkow, Jerome; Cosmides, Leda & Tooby, John (1992). The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. Oxford University Press.[page needed]
  2. ^ "instinct." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 08 Feb. 2011. [1].
  3. ^ Pinker, Steven. The Blank Slate. New York: Penguin. 2002[page needed]
  4. ^ Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1992). The adapted mind.[page needed]
  5. ^ Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1992)[page needed]
  6. ^ Richardson, Robert C. (2007). Evolutionary Psychology As Maladapted Psychology. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-262-18260-7. 
  7. ^ Wallace, Brendan (2010). Getting Darwin Wrong: Why Evolutionary Psychology Won't Work. Exeter: Imprint Academic. p. 136. ISBN 978-1-84540-207-5. 
  8. ^ Sampson, Geoffrey (2009). The "Language Instinct" Debate: Revised Edition. London: Continuum. pp. 134–5. ISBN 978-0-8264-7384-4. 
  9. ^ Levy, Neil (2004). "Evolutionary Psychology, Human Universals, and the Standard Social Science Model". Biology and Philosophy (Kluwer Academic Publishers) 19 (3): 459–72. doi:10.1023/B:BIPH.0000036111.64561.63. Retrieved March 18, 2013. 
  10. ^ Rose, Hilary (2001). "Colonising the Social Sciences?". In Rose, Steven; Rose, Hilary. Alas Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology. London: Vintage. p. 203–212. ISBN 978-0-09-928319-5. 
  11. ^ Hampton, Simon J. (2004). "The instinct debate and the standard social science model". Sexualities, Evolution & Gender 6 (1): 15–44. doi:10.1080/14616660412331279657. 
Bibliography
  • Barkow, J., Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. 1992. The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Degler, C.N. 1991. In search of human nature: The decline and revival of Darwinism in American social thought. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Harrison, L.E. & Huntington, S.H. 2000. Culture Matters. New York: Basic Books.
  • Somit, A. & Peterson, S.A. 2003. Human Nature and Public Policy: An Evolutionary Approach. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]