After more than one century of development, the social disciplines face fundamental internal problems that each separately seems unable to solve. This situation is confirmed by the common-sense arguments advanced within each separate discipline to emphasize the presumed differences and peculiarities that each one claims.
The current partition between economics, psychology, and sociology, expressed in terms of disjoint equivalence classes, is indeed founded on ambiguous and indeterminate properties. The language of economics can be regarded as an exemplary case. In fact, at present, economics is undeniably the most advanced social discipline, in formal and axiomatic terms–despite the lack of isomorphism between theoretical behaviors, consistent with the postulates of axiomatic analysis, and actual behaviors, emphasized by the modern experimental (or behavioral) economics. The problem of inner states in cognitive psychology and sociology results in research methods that cannot guarantee, at present, intersubjective knowledge achievements; this does not happen only in both these research fields but also in experimental economics. The contrary occurs in behavioristic psychology, where variables and parameters define a closed or isolated system.
On these bases, the paper deals with the problem of the scientific integration between social disciplines, which is considered not according to the current interdisciplinarity but rather with reference to the construction of a social interaction model allowing for all social phenomena to be explained. The proposed structural model, which is concisely outlined in this paper, is named the Theory of Interests. This theory is strictly consistent with both the theoretical behavioristic language (related to experimental analysis) and the axiomatized economic language (related to market equilibrium).
A New Paradigm for the Integration of the Social Sciences
The need for integration of the social sciences online
The language of the science
Its syntactic and semantic standards
Time in science
An exemplary case: The language of economics
– The semantic interpretation of economic syntax
– Economics and the social system
– The verification of economics in a human context
– The verification of economics with animal experiments
The problem of inner states in psychology and sociology
The Theory of Interests
A theoretical hypothesis for the study of social phenomena founded on the experimental analysis of behavior
Explication of three critical concepts for the integration of the social sciences: Power, Exchange, Organization
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1/17«If the phenomena concerning humans and society are strictly related to each other, it appears difficult to justify the disjointness among economics, psychology and sociology. The disjointness, besides preventing the construction of a unitary theoretical reference paradigm, supports within the different disciplines such extensive “degrees of freedom” in research methods, theoretical schemata, and language tools that their languages often are not in accordance with the criteria for scientific (experimental) explanation (explication).»
2/17«The language of science must be logically consistent, in accordance with the more or less advanced processes of knowledge. When the language is totally or partly axiomatized, consistency is quite evident. Seeing that a scientific language necessarily implies a strict and univocal (experimental and/or statistical) semantic interpretation of its syntactic terms, consistency concerns, in the final analysis, semantic interpretation too, since the latter determines those properties to which the syntactic relations refer.»
3/17«The reference paradigm is a strong one when the scientific language is constructed using the Galilean method of controlled (laboratory) experiment. In this case, the intersubjectiveness of the scientific language is guaranteed, together with its operativeness, because the scientific language is susceptible to experimental verification.»
4/17«The scientific method imposes a clear-cut distinction between repetition time and evolution time, respectively related to reversibility and irreversibility. Every natural (physical), biological or behavioral phenomenon is characterized by evolution time, but the latter has to be considered as a parameter if one wants to explain the phenomenon in strict reversibility terms.»
5/17«In spite of this axiomatization (now a basic reference point for which all other social sciences should aim), within economics many problems referable to the uniqueness and global stability of equilibrium remain unsolved. But even more critical problems (perhaps including the first two) exist. They concern the semantic interpretation of the theory and are closely associated with the exclusion of the psychological and social variables by economic analysis.»
6/17«All these experiments suggest that the instability of the transitivity of preferences, i.e., the assignment of value by a subject to his own behaviors over time, derives from the processes of learning (reinforcement). Therefore, it should be social variables that determine preference ordering and its reversal, with special reference to the transitivity of the “is not preferred to” relation.»
7/17«Although economists tend to undervalue the set of other social behaviors that lie outside the language of economics, it is plain that if the assumption that all behaviors are, in principle, economic behaviors is rejected, then it is necessary to conclude that the set of factors distorting economic equilibrium is by definition exogenous to the economic system. It, therefore, becomes necessary to analyze the specific relations between the two sets and to define the functions between economic and other social operant-behavior sets, so as to enlarge the economic system by inserting specific variables external to the system without them losing their primary characterization (i.e., without making them endogenous according to the schemata currently used by economists.»
8/17«This situation will remain muddled until the relations between economic variables (which are endogenous to the system) and other social variables (which are exogenous, since they belong to the external system) are exactly specified. This is pointed out in the theory of interest, which shows that Cartesian products between subsets of social behavior can exist; so specific functions can have both economic variables and variables belonging to the power and/or cooperation subsets.»
9/17«I.P. Pavlov and B.F. Skinner operated on the experimental level by totally isolating the system from the outside. However, this fact did not obstruct the finding of the basic laws of behavior; on the contrary, it helped. Nevertheless, modern Aristotelians seem not to follow the lesson of science. They persist in doing experiments that contradict the scientific method, and do not keep under control the stimuli that conditioned the past history (learning as an irreversible process) and that condition the current behaviors (learning as a reversible process) of the experimental subjects. Only “frictions” can emerge from these experiments, i.e., the behaviors clashing with the laws that should be verified.»
10/17«From the perspective of science, we can suppose that behavioral laws “exist,” but these latter are only learning laws and must not be confused with the environmental contingencies (i.e., the “contents” of reinforcement schedules) on which also economic behavior depends.»
11/17«Perceiving states of consciousness as prime causes of behavior brings about a radical distortion of the knowledge humans have about themselves, as it leads to concentrating attention solely upon internal processes (that cannot be submitted to an intersubjective, quantitative and experimental scientific analysis) and building up a cultural context and a pseudo-explicative language in conformity with this representation.»
12/17«All possible types of social interaction have to be explicated in terms of reinforcement, because the reinforcing stimuli for one subject’s social behavior sequences are, by definition, the behaviors of other subjects. As stated above, the set of social stimuli (the social environment) does not replace or remove the set of natural stimuli, but it widens the extent of control on behavior, determining a further constraint on the execution of instrumental sequences: in order that the subject can complete his sequence with the consummatory behavior, it is necessary that the instrumental behavior is compatible not only with the physical environment, but also with the social environment. In short, these are the basic reference points for the experimental analysis of social behavior.»
13/17«One of the most important problems in the field of social studies is how to overcome conflict (negative involvement of interests). In fact, negative involvement expresses a situation of perfect social inertia, since neither of the two subjects is able to carry out autonomously his own operant sequence as the other subject, bringing into action the opposite operant sequence, blocks him (bars the reinforcement of the other subject’s instrumental sequence).»
14/17«The explication of exchange within the theory of interests proves that the “is not preferred to” relation, which is the only one economists take into consideration, is coupled with the “is instrumental to” relation. As stated above, both the “is instrumental to” and the “is not preferred to” relations derive from the experimental analysis of behavior. Within the theory of interests, they are expressed by the instrumentality degree and the intensity level, respectively. Therefore it can be confirmed that economic behavior is a subset of social behavior.»
15/17«This interpretation can be used to explicate the concepts of preference and utility within the more general behavioristic language. Preference expresses the order of intensity levels [of interests], whereas utility, in a general sense, does not express a property of one interest, but rather an instrumentality relation between two interests, one of which is sacrificed in order to gain the satisfaction of the other one. The utility of one interest is determined by the instrumentality of the sacrifice of another interest.»
16/17«The organization is explicated in scientific terms by the positive involvement, with specific reference to the essential condition of the reciprocal complementarity of the two distinct instrumental interest sequences carried out by each subject. This reciprocal complementarity among instrumental interests belonging to different fields of interests is such that, in principle, each instrumental interest defines an organizational role and each tole, thus differentiated, is assigned to either subject whose interests are positively involved.»
17/17«The free rider’s behavior can be generalized in a more abstract perspective within the theory of interests, as an element of the more general set of behaviors realized by the subjects who profit (without any positive involvement) by positive involvement among other subjects’ interests. With reference to the free rider, no cooperation can exist in the sense of immediate (direct) positive involvement.»