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Theory Development

6. Common Sense

In the face of these daunting difficulties, social scientists have devised a number of strategies. The simplest and most fundamental is to understand behavioral phenomena in terms of “folk psychology” or common sense, as actions with reasons. The problem of complexity overwhelms such explanations: the kinds of decisions and reasoning that go into an event such as an adolescent pregnancy are complex, and even to turn such an event into an action or a series of actions involves a reconstruction. Even if we think of these events as choices, they are difficult to construct as reasoned decisions. Like most actions, there are many considerations, some spur of the moment, some long term, and disentangling them is not easy, even in such simple market decisions as the purchase of a pair of shoes.

The diagram below demonstrates the point that statistically linked data may not make rational sense when ignoring other factors in the process. In social science all the factors and their relationship to one another must be taken into account.

Figure 1

Diagram depicting decision-making schema as discussed in text


Adapted from Krantz, D and Kunreuther H. "Goals and plans in decision making." Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 2, No. 3, June 2007.