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What are the goals of theory?

What are the goals of theory?

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What are the goals of theory?

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  1. What are the goals of theory? • To understand • To predict • To influence • To control

  2. To build a theory…... • Categorization • What information is relevant? • What information can you ignore? • Description is never just description

  3. Correlation is not causality Statistics explain nothing If we understand the process, we can understand the conditions under which it will happen.

  4. Theories do: • Explanation • Prediction • Prescription

  5. How do you know if a theory is ‘valid’? Testing Evaluation Faith = BAD

  6. The Classical Physics Model • Fundamental determinants of phenomenon • Small number of variables • Clearly defined relationships between them • Measurable! • Parsimony is a good thing

  7. The Social Science Challenge • Equifinality and Multifinality • Hard to measure variables • Sets of theories or contingent generalizations require boundary conditions: when do they apply and when don’t they? • Progress is about moving from probabilistic statements to contingent statements

  8. So what’s a ‘good’ theory? • Accuracy • Parsimony • Causality • Heuristic Value