- Introduction: Doing Philosophy of Social Science
- Micro, Macro, and Mechanisms
- Mechanisms, Causal Modeling, and the Limitations of Traditional Multiple Regression
- Process Tracing and Causal Mechanisms
- Descriptive-Causal Generalizations: “Empirical Laws” in the Social Sciences?
- Useful Complex Causality
- Partial Explanations in Social Science
- Mechanistic Social Probability: How Individual Choices and Varying Circumstances Produce Stable Social Patterns
- The Impact of Duhemian Principles on Social Science Testing and Progress
- Philosophy and the Practice of Bayesian Statistics in the Social Sciences
- Sciences of Historical Tokens and Theoretical Types: History and the Social Sciences
- RCTs, Evidence, and Predicting Policy Effectiveness
- Bringing Context and Variability Back into Causal Analysis
- The Potential Value of Computational Models in Social Science Research
- Models of Culture
- The Evolutionary Program in Social Philosophy
- Cultural Evolution: Integration and Skepticism
- Coordination and the Foundations of Social Intelligence
- Making Race Out of Nothing: Psychologically Constrained Social Roles
- A Feminist Empirical and Integrative Approach in Political Science: Breaking Down the Glass Wall?
- Social Constructions of Mental Illness
- Cooperation and Reciprocity: Empirical Evidence and Normative Implications
- Evaluating Social Policy
- Values and the Science of Well-Being: A Recipe for Mixing
Abstract and Keywords
This article employs the causal modeling with directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) to demonstrate some circumstances where mechanisms are needed and not needed, and to give clear reasons why that is the case. In the process, it illustrates how standard regression practices in the social sciences can go wrong and how they can be improved. Additionally, the article presents some limitations of the DAG program in determining mechanisms in the social sciences. Arguments for mechanisms in the social sciences are often ill-defined in terms of which sort of mechanism they entail. DAGs can illustrate how mechanisms can be significant or essential, depending on whether establishing a causal relation or determining an effect size. Social causality is complex in ways that the DAG framework cannot easily handle, and other approaches or more nuanced DAG applications are called for.
Harold Kincaid is Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has written multiple books and numerous articles on issues in the philosophy of the social sciences.
Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.
If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.