Single-Cause Theories

carter pate (CPATE@UTCVM.UTC.EDU)
Fri, 21 Apr 1995 14:04:17 EDT

How nice! A thread runs three days, and not a single flame!

Bob Graber's post (below) invites a couple of comments.

Who's arguing that multiple-cause theories have some sort of inherent
superiority? My opinion is that our habit of applying too literally models
from inorganic or organic sciences, and the obvious contribution of laboratory
methodology to them, creates an unconscious bias toward single-cause theories.
When these prove inadequate, our first inclination is to seek a new single-
cause theory, rather than to attempt to combine what we have. Or perhaps
Mike Salovesh is right and the institution called "publish or perish" has
enslaved us all.

Early in my graduate work, I was rather deeply into the work of pyshologist
Kurt Lewin. One of this "practical theorist"'s contributions which is still
in applied fields such as public policy and conflict resolution is what he
called a "force field analysis." In a type of brainstorming session, a
group ponders a certain pattern of behavior, perhaps the level of discrimi-
nation in a community or of absenteeism in a factory. They list all the
factors imagineable, within and outside the immediate situation, which are
now combining in sort of homeostatic equilibrium, to keep the rate of the
behavior at approximately the same level. Then they evaluate the relative
force of each factor, pushing toward raising or lowering the rate. This is very
helpful in fields of practice, where an overall and multipronged strategy
is often more effective than single-cause theories, especially of the knee-
jerk variety. Certainly, this doesn't mean it always is superior. But
isn't it worth trying, just to get out of a rut?
Regards to all,

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
for multiple-cause theories! I really fail to grasp the argument that
multiple-cause theories have some sort of inherent superiority. This
--Bob Graber