Failed Attempts: The Frailties of Narrative Methods

J. D. Trout

in Measuring the Intentional World

Published in print July 1998 | ISBN: 9780195107661
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199786152 | DOI:
 Failed Attempts: The Frailties of Narrative Methods

Show Summary Details


The epistemological naturalism expressed by Population-Guided Estimation supports measured realism about the social and behavioral sciences, but also has striking implications for the way traditional narrative social science has been done. Social science and psychology have overcome humble beginnings, and in their current form, owe a profound debt to the resources of statistical methods. Elegant and learned narratives — the classics of early social science — led readers through a world of charismatic leaders, diplomats’ diaries, peasant uprisings, cartel formation, courtly intrigue, workers’ movements, and wars of religion and capital. However, except in cases where the processes or events described were especially robust, these anecdotal techniques proved a poor guide to the existence of any postulated social entities and an unreliable basis for generalization. This claim is grounded on a survey of recent results in cognitive psychology on the biases of human judgment (results spawned by Tversky, Kahneman, and their colleagues), and in a discussion of disposition to neglect important yet simple actuarial features that guide reliable inductive reasoning.

Keywords: narrative methods; actuarial; inductive reasoning; bias; human judgment; generalization; anecdotal techniques; cognitive psychology

Chapter.  23018 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.