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Great Issues in Social Science: Models of Human Relationships
Why do they matter in science, society and everyday life?
HSP 154 CRN 2636
Tuesdays & Thursdays
1:10 – 3:00pm
Jeremy L. Osborn, Communication Studies
At a general level, this course will examine the fundamental differences among various disciplines and research areas within the social sciences by analyzing one phenomenon that is critical to all of them—human relationships. While the human relationship represents one of the fundamental units of analysis in the social sciences, it is not a phenomenon that possesses a unitary conceptualization (let alone operationalization) across disciplines and lines of research. The various models of human relationships that have emerged provide excellent lenses through which to see the fundamental differences among these lines of research at the core level of philosophical assumptions regarding social life and activity.
Different models offer different explanations for the motivations underlying social action and the structural elements that define an association as a "relationship." Social scientists and lay people alike utilize particular models of human relationships to both make sense of their experience and to make behavioral decisions. The models chosen can have serious implications for both scientific inquiry and personal decision-making. From a scientific standpoint, these models reflect several "great issues." First, they highlight the diversity, complexity, and richness that define the social sciences. The differences among them illustrate different fundamental philosophical and methodological approaches to understanding the social world. Second, by highlighting these differences, the models help illustrate one of the reasons that true "interdisciplinary" social science research is often difficult. If differences exist at fundamental levels that are then manifested in the conceptualization of key terms and phenomenon, researchers can often have difficulty coordinating interdisciplinary research that could yield important insights. Beyond the scientific level, examining the models provides insights into the values and beliefs that were dominant at different points in history and/or were advanced either intentionally or unintentionally by researchers with particular agendas. Therefore the reflexive relationship between scientific knowledge and cultural meaning is explored. Finally, examining the models offers individual students a set of tools to examine their own perceptual biases, the biases of others, and the biases of particular, dominant groups in society.