How Non-Sociologists Study the Social: The Case of Social Neuroscience

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 09:42
Oral Presentation
Natalia BESEDOVSKY, University of Hamburg, Germany
The traditional divide between natural and social sciences is crumbling. Not only have social sciences started to be interested in medicine, artefacts, technologies, or mathematics. Natural and life sciences have increasingly started studying instances of “the social”, be it in epigenetics, evolutionary biology or artificial intelligence studies. Overall, it seems that there is a strong interest of different “hard” sciences to study what is traditionally regarded as the domain of sociology. On the other hand, while there is a huge body of work in science and technology studies studying these “hard” disciplines, less is known about this recent trend to include social phenomena. Using interviews with leading scientists and participant observation in graduate-level courses, this paper studies the conception of “the social” in the field of social neuroscience. It finds that their concept of social behavior is based primarily in philosophical thought, such as theory of mind, and that sociological concepts play almost no role in the development of research designs or curricula.