The Constant Causes of Never-Ending Faddishness in the Behavioral and Social Sciences

Scandinavian Journal of Management, Vol. 25, pp. 108-116, 2009

9 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2011

See all articles by William H. Starbuck

William H. Starbuck

University of Oregon - Charles H. Lundquist School of Business; New York University (NYU) - Department of Management and Organizational Behavior

Date Written: March 31, 2011

Abstract

The history of the behavioral and social sciences contains endless sequences of conceptual and methodological fads. Disappointed with the results of their current concepts and methods, researchers pursue new topics or approaches in the hope that they will bring better results. In time, however, the new fads too disappoint. The wide spread and persistence of disappointment evidence the influence of common and fundamental misbeliefs about scientific methodology. This article points to the detrimental effects of four specific misbeliefs: that research lends itself to mass production, that mechanistic descriptions adequately portray behavioral and social processes, that generalizations ought to be broad, and that statistical methods provide useful insights even if researchers misuse them. Detrimental ideas such as these can survive scrutiny and evaluation because researchers cannot agree about what effective research looks like. Lacking reliable indicators of research effectiveness, researchers both flit capriciously from one idea to another and adhere stubbornly to unproductive ideas.

Suggested Citation

Starbuck, William H., The Constant Causes of Never-Ending Faddishness in the Behavioral and Social Sciences (March 31, 2011). Scandinavian Journal of Management, Vol. 25, pp. 108-116, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1800427

William H. Starbuck (Contact Author)

University of Oregon - Charles H. Lundquist School of Business ( email )

1208 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1208
United States

New York University (NYU) - Department of Management and Organizational Behavior ( email )

44 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

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