Lecture 019


Stance: neither of the two extreme (pure description vs. universal law), middle range theory

Unify tree well-know theories (by causal modeling)

Mechanism: middle ground between pure description and universal law

Stinchcombe: mechanism is a reduction of a theory to lower (individual) level, the purpose is to make higher-level more accurate or more general

Explanatory mechanism: can explain things that statistics (correlation) cannot


benefits of generative mechanism


Generality of a law makes a law convincing (no ad hoc)

Unobserved assumption: can be only tested by confirmation


  1. above example of theory generalizable to make them "mechanism"? "bandwagon effect" "production" "consumption"

Bandwagon effects tries to explain behavior by stating that "people have tendency to imitate other's behavior" (page 284). The "production" and "consumption" theory (page 286) in microeconomics tries to model the price of objects in market. Because these theory can be generalized to some extent in their fields of study, but they are not universal laws that can't be violated, they can be considered "middle-ground explanation," and therefore these laws satisfy the "generalizability" of "mechanisms." (For example, bandwagon effects can be used to explain almost any behavior since human behaviors overlap significantly. Production and consumption theory can be used in any market for any products.) However, because, to my knowledge, bandwagon effects does not try to explain why "people have tendency to imitate other's behavior," it is also considered a "black-box explanation" that does not make it a "generative mechanism" (page 287). Therefore, bandwagon effects offers more as a "story-telling" and "prediction" than a "causal explanation" (page 283).

  1. only moving association to finer level? Yes. but as we move finer and finer level, the more certain we are about causal chain

  2. mechanism better than correlation? Mechanism is better, cuz mechanism adds info to correlation



Types of acceptable mechanisms

Situational mechanism: how social level conditions affect agents (social affect individual) Individual action mechanism: how desires/beliefs/opportunity-to-act generates a specific individual action (psychology affect individual) Transformations mechanism: how a number of agents, individually acting in interaction with one another, produces collective outcome (prisoner's dilemma)

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