Studying Human Behavior How Scientists Investigate Aggression and Sexuality
by Helen E. Longino
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Cloth: 978-0-226-49287-2 | Paper: 978-0-226-49288-9 | Electronic: 978-0-226-92182-2
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226921822.001.0001
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

In Studying Human Behavior, Helen E. Longino enters into the complexities of human behavioral research, a domain still dominated by the age-old debate of “nature versus nurture.” Rather than supporting one side or another or attempting to replace that dichotomy with a different framework for understanding behavior, Longino focuses on how scientists study it, specifically sexual behavior and aggression, and asks what can be known about human behavior through empirical investigation.
 
She dissects five approaches to the study of behavior—quantitative behavioral genetics, molecular behavior genetics, developmental psychology, neurophysiology and anatomy, and social/environmental methods—highlighting the underlying assumptions of these disciplines, as well as the different questions and mechanisms each addresses. She also analyzes efforts to integrate different approaches. Longino concludes that there is no single “correct” approach but that each contributes to our overall understanding of human behavior. In addition, Longino reflects on the reception and transmission of this behavioral research in scientific, social, clinical, and political spheres. A highly significant and innovative study that bears on crucial scientific questions, Studying Human Behavior will be essential reading not only for scientists and philosophers but also for science journalists and anyone interested in the engrossing challenges of understanding human behavior.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Helen E. Longino is chair and the Clarence Irving Lewis Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Stanford University. She is the author of Science as Social Knowledge and The Fate of Knowledge.
 

REVIEWS

“Longino presents many insights about different general methods, assumptions, research goals, and the importance of definitions in researching behavior. I know of no other book that covers such diverse approaches.”

— Peter Machamer, University of Pittsburgh

“Rather than taking sides in the nature/nurture debates, Longino floats above them, beautifully illustrating what philosophers do best, laying out the complexity and interrelationships among different research approaches to human aggression and sexuality. For example, she examines the ways that various biological and social fields describe behaviors, illuminating how moral values and folk psychology get infused into the deepest research concepts from the start. An extremely thoughtful, careful, and fascinating book, accessible to all those interested in the foundations of behavior.”
— Elisabeth Lloyd, Indiana University

Studying Human Behavior offers a groundbreaking account of the sciences of human behavior. Longino’s detailed analysis of how each science investigates and explains behaviors associated with aggression and sexual orientation shows that each has more limitations than champions acknowledge and each has more power than critics grant. At a time when science is being dismissed by some and elevated to a religion by others, this book provides a model of how empirical knowledge should be examined and understood.”

— C. Kenneth Waters, University of Minnesota

“[A] fascinating book. . . . Longino has clearly articulated the methodological plurality of research on human behavior.”
— Erika Lorraine Milam, Princeton University, Science

“In her groundbreaking book . . . Longino looks closely at a variety of scientific approaches to the study of human aggression and sexuality to argue that there is no one right way to divide nature from nurture within the scientific approaches to the study of behavior, and that the nature/nurture dichotomy reinforces and reflects an undue emphasis on explanations that focus on the dispositions of individuals rather than those that look at patterns of frequency and distribution of behavior within populations.”
— Carrie Figdor, New Books in Philosophy

“[An] important contribution to the philosophy of the science(s) of human behavior. . . . [T]his is a must read for philosophers of science and behavioral scientists. . . . Recommended.”
— R. F. White, College of Mount St. Joseph, Choice

“Overall, this book offers a useful overview of a number of scientific approaches to investigating human behavior and a thorough examination of the existing concerns with each approach. Longino’s treatment of the different ways these approaches parse the causal space is illuminating for those interested in the sciences of human behavior, and also as a case study of how multiple approaches address a phenomenon in very different ways that are not easily reconcilable.”
— Angela Potochnik, University of Cincinnati, Notre Dame Philosophical Review

"Worth reading for anyone interested in feminist philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, or social epistemology. Longino demonstrates an impressive and comprehensive engagement with the relevant science, a careful and thorough use of that scientific literature to advance an account of the pluralism and partiality of knowledge claims based in different scientific disciplines, and, finally, an approach to the sciences of behavior that has important feminist and liberatory implications. We hope this book makes it to your shelves and stimulates further feminist work in the scientific terrain Longino has so rigorously charted for us."
— Sarah Weaver and Carla Fehr, Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy

"Longino has done the philosophy of science a service by providing a nonpartisan assessment of the many scientific approaches that study the nature and nurture of human behavior. She convincingly shows that we need not pick winners and losers among the approaches, but rather can think constructively about the relationship between those approaches."
— James Tabery, Metascience

"Helen Longino’s Studying Human Behavior: How Scientists Investigate Aggression and Sexuality demonstrates the relevance and validity of scientific pluralism as a mode of understanding scientific study of human behavior. . . . The result is a fascinating yet easy read, reporting empirical research on how various sciences study and explain human behavior. Throughout, the book is well written and well thought. Based on exhaustive observation and careful analysis of scientific practices and discourses, it offers insights on five distinct scientific approaches to the study of sexuality and aggression."
— Science and Technology Studies

TABLE OF CONTENTS

- Helen E. Longino
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226921822.003.0001
[human behavior, research approaches, empirical research, behavioral research]
This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to examine a set of research approaches that are in one way or another engaged with the debate over human behavior to understand their epistemological structure (investigative methods, assumptions, basic concepts), the kinds of knowledge they provide, and the pragmatic aims they can be seen to advance. The book outlines the evidential and argumentative structure of empirical research on human behavior that either employs one or another biological approach or is claimed to present an alternative to such approaches. It argues for and elaborates three principal theses, one epistemological, regarding the character of knowledge generated in this research; one ontological, regarding the object of knowledge; and one social, regarding the differential uptake and diffusion of knowledge. The organization and structure of the book is also described. (pages 1 - 18)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Helen E. Longino
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226921822.003.0002
[research approaches, phenotypic variation, populations, heritability, human behavior, behavioral research]
This chapter discusses the quantitative behavioral genetics approach to understanding human behavior, covering methods, scope, and assumptions. Quantitative behavioral genetics is a study of phenotypic variation in populations, which aims to distinguish the (biologically) heritable portion from the nonheritable (or nonbiologically heritable) portion of that variation. This research approach has been controversial. While it can apportion the variance in expression of a trait in a population between biological and environmental variation, a number of criticisms reveal vulnerabilities in the program. These concern the overextension of heritability conclusions and assumptions about the accessibility of relevant variation in the environment to the observation methods of the behavioral genetic approach. (pages 21 - 36)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Helen E. Longino
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226921822.003.0003
[research approaches, social environment, human behavior, environmental influence, behavioral research]
This chapter discusses social-environmental approaches to studying human behavior, covering methods, scope, and assumptions. Social-environmental approaches seek to understand the environmental contribution to the development and expression of various behaviors. The aim is to identify aspects of the social environment that may have an effect on the behavior of interest. Some studies focus on the familial environment, considering, for example, parents' attitudes and interactions with their children. Others look beyond to the school environment, and peer relations, or media exposure. (pages 37 - 50)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Helen E. Longino
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226921822.003.0004
[research approaches, human behavior, behavioral dispositions, genes, behavioral research]
This chapter discusses the molecular behavioral genetics approach to studying human behavior, covering methods, scope, and assumptions. Molecular genetics promises to deliver more precise characterizations of the gene–behavior relation than is possible using the methods of classical population genetics. However, the cost of this precision has been a reduced number of behavioral dispositions that can be attributed without qualification to genetic configurations. (pages 51 - 61)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Helen E. Longino
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226921822.003.0005
[research approaches, human behaviors, brain, neural structures, retrospective methods, concurrent methods, prospective methods, behavioral research]
This chapter discusses neurobiological approaches to studying human behavior, covering methods, scope, and assumptions. Neurobiological research seeks answers to the question: What role do neural structures and processes play in behavior? The study methods employed are retrospective, concurrent, and prospective. Retrospective methods include the use of autopsies to identify neurostructural correlates of behavioral patterns attributed to the individual and correlational studies of prison, clinic, and hospital records to identify associations between brain injuries or other trauma (e.g., birth complications) and later aggressive or criminal behavior. Concurrent methods include brain imaging or measuring changes in other physical parameters (heart rate) associable with exposure to particular cognitive or sensory stimuli. Prospective methods include animal experiments to identify the effects on behavior of organizational or activational exposure to bio- and psychoactive substances, and clinical trials in humans to ascertain physiological, psychological, and behavioral effects of such substances. (pages 63 - 80)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Helen E. Longino
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226921822.003.0006
[research approaches, human behavior, developmental systems theory, GxExN integration, multifactorial path analysis, behavioral research]
This chapter discusses integrative approaches to studying human behavior, covering methods, scope, and assumptions. These approaches take understanding the multiplicity of factors and their interaction as the focus of their research. Among these are developmental systems theory, the GxExN integration approach, multifactorial path analysis. (pages 81 - 102)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Helen E. Longino
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226921822.003.0007
[research approaches, human behavior, quantitative behavioral genetics, social-environmental approaches, molecular behavioral genetics, neurobiological approaches, integrative approaches, behavioral research]
This chapter reviews the five approaches discussed in Chapters 2–6. These are quantitative behavioral genetics; social-environmental approaches; molecular behavioral genetics; neurobiological approaches; and integrative approaches (developmental systems theory/dynamic systems, gene x environment x neurosystem interaction, and multifactorial path analysis). (pages 103 - 121)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Helen E. Longino
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226921822.003.0008
[research approaches, human behavior, scientific understanding, behavioral research]
This chapter offers some conclusions based on the preceding chapters about the reach of scientific understanding of behavior. It extends the analysis of assumptions to underscore what the approaches have in common and what differentiates them from one another. It argues that, as presently constituted, the approaches can neither be integrated nor reduced to one by elimination or reductive assimilation. Each characterizes its domain in a unique way that precludes the reciprocal evaluation suggested by their polemics. (pages 125 - 150)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Helen E. Longino
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226921822.003.0009
[human behavior, philosophical thought, aggression, sexual orientation, behavioral research]
This chapter analyzes the ways in which the particular behaviors of interest to the studies examined are operationalized and conceptualized, and sets that examination in the context of philosophical thought about the general concept of behavior. It argues that human behavior is so familiar to us that it is difficult to achieve sufficient distance to devise stable and meaningful constructs for investigative purposes. The two families of behavior whose scientific investigation form the subject of this book turn out to be especially elusive. Aggression, even when narrowed to non-state-sponsored interpersonal infliction of harm splinters into different measurable indices. The focus on sexual orientation, on the other hand, may conceal other dimensions of sexual variation that interact with the object of erotic attention/arousal. (pages 151 - 178)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Helen E. Longino
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226921822.003.0010
[human behavior, behavioral research, research approaches]
This chapter considers the uptake of selected articles representative of the different behavioral research approaches by studying citation patterns, the reporting of behavioral research in mass-media and “middle-brow” publications, and the reviews of general-interest books by researchers. The goal was to obtain a more complete picture of the transmission of ideas, both within the research context and between the research context and nonspecialist readers. It shows that apart from isolated confrontations staged by journal editors or conference organizers, there is little interaction among proponents of different research approaches. Second, the research itself is unevenly reported in the popular media. In both quantity and interpretation, genetic research is represented as the major and most productive line of investigation. Third, the framing of behavioral research in terms of the nature-nurture debate suggests that the main question about behavior concerns individual behavior and individual differences in behavior. (pages 179 - 202)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Helen E. Longino
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226921822.003.0011
[research approaches, behavioral research, human behavior]
This chapter presents some concluding thoughts. It discusses three major points emerging from this study. The first concerns the interrelations of the various approaches to the study of behavior. The second concerns the conceptualization of the phenomena to be explained. The third concerns the communication of research findings within the research community and in the wider public arena. (pages 203 - 210)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online