A Cross-Disciplinary Approach for the Study of Human Social Behavior

July 2017

Most social scientists would agree that human behavior is shaped by an individual’s psychological capacities as they emerge over development and by the cultural-historical environment we are embedded in. Yet it remains a challenge to conduct research that cuts across these dimensions. In fact, a new generation of researchers has started to ask questions that can only be answered by integrating concepts and methods from anthropology and psychology. However, these two fields still mainly exist in parallel, with ethnographic descriptions and analyses on the one hand and experimental tests on the other. Many researchers face the problem that they would like to integrate different approaches, but lack the expertise and knowledge about the state of the art methods of the relevant fields. To fill this gap, this exploratory seminar brings together developmental psychologists and cultural anthropologists who share interests in understanding human development within a cultural framework and want to use different disciplinary approaches in their own research. We chose the study of social behaviors as an area in which this interdisciplinary integration is particularly relevant and selected four topic areas as case studies: cultural learning, theory of mind, cooperation, and morality. Through the discussion of the participants’ respective research, the goal is to work together to develop mixed-method approaches and collaborations. We will also address issues of accessibility of research findings across disciplinary boundaries, both in terms of finding appropriate avenues for publication and the presentation of findings to meet the standards of different disciplinary traditions.

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