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Causality for Beginners

Causality for Beginners

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Causality for Beginners

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  1. Causality for Beginners RAY PAWSON – FAREWELL TO RMP – MANCHESTER NOVEMBER 2007


  3. “If you want to understand a tribe – go to it’s sacred images” Yar Noswap (1999)

  4. Successionist cave paintings O1 X O2 O3 O4 W X Y X Y U V U Y Z V X

  5. Configurational Symbols Attribute set Case Outcome A.b.C.d = O A.B.c.d = O

  6. Generative iconography Context (C) Mechanism (M) Outcome Pattern (O)

  7. Generative explanation in practice How Merton turned Stouffer’s Causal Arrow into an Generative Mechanism Giant survey of draftees into the US army WW II. Several pronounced ‘causal links’ including: (Marital Status Attitude Draft) 41% of married inductees claim thy should not have been drafted – 10% for single men. On which basis Stouffer et al declare: ‘Comparing himself with his unmarried associates in the Army, he could feel that induction demanded greater sacrifices from him than from them; and comparing himself with his married civilian friends, he could feel that he had been called on for sacrifices which they were escaping altogether.’

  8. Theories that might usefully be tested to strengthen the causal inference If ‘relative deprivation’ really is the cause we need to investigate: • Experience – that they feel ‘torn’ (find it hard to partake in family life whilst soldiering). • Norms – they know ‘how it works’ (norms whereby recruitment boards are usually softer on the married). • Knowledgeability – they know the ‘score’ (comparative rate of induction between singles and married). • Proximity – resentment increases with ‘immediacy’ (being surrounded by single in barracks and drills) N.B. Testing each conjecture would call on different research techniques and strategies (theory leads method).

  9. Another benefit of the theory-testing approach - The precious property of abstraction Abstraction and formalisation of a generative middle-range theory The ‘demi-regs’ of study one. The ‘demi-regs’ of study two.

  10. True causal explanations have memory and pedigree ‘An army private bucking for promotion may only in a narrow and theoretically superficial sense be regarded as engaging in behaviour different from that of an immigrant assimilating the values of a native group, or of a lower-middle-class individual conforming to his conception of upper-middle-class patterns of behaviour, or of a boy in a slum area orienting himself to the values of a settlement house worker rather than the values of the street corner gang, or of a Bennington student abandoning the conservative beliefs of her parents to adopt the more liberal ideas of her college associates, or of a lower-class Catholic departing from the pattern of his in-group by casting a Republican vote, or of a eighteenth century French aristocrat aligning himself with a revolutionary group of the time … The combination of elements may differ, thus giving rise to overtly distinctive forms of behaviour, but these may nevertheless be only different expressions of similar processes under different conditions. They may all represent cases of individuals becoming identified with reference groups to which they aspire’. (Merton, 1968:332)

  11. Why the generative account is to be preferred • Ontologically sound – variables/attributes don’t ‘cause’ anything. • Makes tacit explicit – other approaches smuggle in ad hoc generative explanation. • Deals with constrained choice – intervening variables are not mechanisms, moderators are not contexts. • Provides explanations rather than makeshift descriptions as in the other two models • Deals with Lieberson’s X14 problem – closure by theoretical saturation and adjudication. • Provides the basis for transferable and cumulative explanation.

  12. "The key methodological challenge for the twenty-first century" Angela, Our table thinks it might be the Twentieth Century challenge of the ‘theory-methods gap’. ESRC has got it into its head that what is needed is technical innovation after technical innovation. But back home in our departments it’s all theorising – conceptual neologism after conceptual neologism. The real challenge is to bring theory and method together.