Studying Human Behavior
Helen E Longino
In Studying Human Behavior, Helen E. Longino enters into the complexities of human behavioral research, a domain still dominated by the age-old debate of “nature versus nurture.” Rather than supporting one side or another or attempting to replace that dichotomy with a different framework for understanding behavior, Longino focuses on how scientists study it, specifically sexual behavior and aggression, and asks what can be known about human behavior through empirical investigation.
She dissects five approaches to the study of behavior—quantitative behavioral genetics, molecular behavior genetics, developmental psychology, neurophysiology and anatomy, and social/environmental methods—highlighting the underlying assumptions of these disciplines, as well as the different questions and mechanisms each addresses. She also analyzes efforts to integrate different approaches. Longino concludes that there is no single “correct” approach but that each contributes to our overall understanding of human behavior. In addition, Longino reflects on the reception and transmission of this behavioral research in scientific, social, clinical, and political spheres. A highly significant and innovative study that bears on crucial scientific questions, Studying Human Behavior will be essential reading not only for scientists and philosophers but also for science journalists and anyone interested in the engrossing challenges of understanding human behavior.