what does david brooks know about sociology that we don’t?

David Brooks recently spoke at the Aspen Ideas conference, on the topic of neuroscience and sociology. Click here for the links to Brooks. He’s summarizing what’s already well known among social scientists, which is that conscious rational decision is really a small chunk of what the brain does, especially in regard to social interaction. My question: When will sociologists join the neuroscience revolution? This is directly relevant to what we do.

Written by fabiorojas

July 11, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Posted in fabio, psychology, sociology

11 Responses

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  1. Hey, man, I’m already there! I’m a foot soldier in the neuroscience revolution. ;-)

    I’ve found that sociology reviewers don’t really like me talking about neuroscience per se, but they seem less bothered by the term “cognitive science.”

    I have a paper from my dissertation that attempts to link up dual process theories of decision making with sociological action theory. It’s resubmitted now, but here’s a link to the current version if you’re interested…

    Click to access vaisey_dual_process.pdf


    Steve Vaisey

    July 11, 2008 at 5:08 pm

  2. Neuroscience and genetic research are goldmines for future research ideas, especially for people who study individual behavior. I wonder though to what extent it will affect organizational research? My hunch is that it’s only a matter of time before the leadership folks tap into this and start producing a papers about how neurological/genetic differences in leaders affects firm performance, etc. The more plausible route for finding a connection would be to look at how biological differences affect the intra-organizational mobility of workers or managers.

    Someone should get on that.



    July 11, 2008 at 6:00 pm

  3. The part of the Brooks talk about relationships vs. student loans made me think about another paper. Mike Shanahan and I (and others) did a paper showing that one genetic differences in college enrollment (differences in a dopamine receptor gene) could be completely mediated by having a teacher as a significant mentor. Not sure if this is more broadly applicable to organizations, but it suggests that schools at least might deliver a better “product” if they invested more in relationships.

    Incidentally, Brayden, I wonder how many managers and CEOs would be willing to be genotyped for research…


    Steve Vaisey

    July 11, 2008 at 6:12 pm

  4. I agree. I ended up write a book, largely based on this 2002 article,

    Click to access modelingpreparatory.pdf

    that is consistent with those basic ideas (at least in drawing on the control and automaticity literature). The main challenge seems to be data collection, given our sociological interests in observable everyday existence.

    Let’s have Vaisey do the heavy lifting on data collection …


    Steve Morgan

    July 11, 2008 at 6:13 pm

  5. As someone who briefly went down the psychology graduate school path and decided to make the move to psychology, let me address this briefly. The neuroscience revolution is huge and amazing indeed; it is, however, in its infancy. Many of the neuroscience papers with interesting findings are pretty descriptive; fMRI doesn’t do a lot of legwork in the explanation department. We’re left with a bunch of findings about how the brain looks when people are performing certain behaviors. OK, great. Now what do we *do* with these findings? It seems to me that there is a lot of clamoring to “include neuroscience” in our research but many of us are scratching our heads and wondering just what that would look like. Further, there’s the potential for a dangerous swing to determinism.

    I suspect that the money for non-neuroscience research in psychology is beginning to dry up a bit as funds are diverted toward neuroscience-ish research. Unfortunately, this is producing a lot of research in the vein of “As you can see, the amygdala was active when participants were answering the survey which tells us…. LOOK AT THESE BRAIN SCANS!”



    July 11, 2008 at 6:41 pm

  6. Obviously, I mean make the move to “sociology.” Damn hippocampus.



    July 11, 2008 at 6:56 pm

  7. […] Posted in obscure sociological theory by Kieran on July 11th, 2008 I am all in favor of further work at the intersection of sociology and emerging work in biology, cognitive science and neuroscience. […]


  8. Just hook that electrode right into my pleasure center and call me in the morning.



    July 11, 2008 at 10:03 pm

  9. On a more serious note, Trey said Now what do we *do* with these findings? It seems to me that there is a lot of clamoring to “include neuroscience” in our research but many of us are scratching our heads and wondering just what that would look like.

    This is the big issue as I see it. But some really smart grad student is gonna come along and do it and we’re all gonna say, “Man, why didn’t I think of that!” And then, those of us with heightened self-esteem will have another thought, “Pshaw, I really could have thought of that.” And then a nice chemical will go off in our heads because we find pleasure in that thought.



    July 11, 2008 at 10:14 pm

  10. …or, alternatively, we’ll find that truly social causes are more fundamental than neurological causes anyway and we’ll return to actually doing sociology instead of hoping we can find a Self on an fMRI readout.

    Liked by 1 person


    July 12, 2008 at 3:23 am

  11. Of potential interest, this dialogue between Tom Wolfe and Michael Gazzaniga.



    July 13, 2008 at 9:19 pm

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