Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Impressions of Consequences: A Review of the Science of Consequences by Susan M. Schneider

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Impressions of Consequences: A Review of the Science of Consequences by Susan M. Schneider

Article excerpt

SCHNEIDER, S. M. (2012)

The Science of Consequences

Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books

350 pp., ISBN-13: 9781616146627

For readers who find narrow academic specializations, disciplines, and departments stultifying, this is just the book for you. The Science of Consequences, by Susan Schneider, aspires to transcend traditional academic boundaries. The book's premise is consistent with the growing cultural meme of synthesis, collaboration, and casting off dysfunctional barriers. Fusion has been popular in music (jazz and baroque) and art (social realism and abstract expressionism). Within the sciences, the notion of unity across sciences was popular in the era of Nagel's (1951) model of scientific structure and explanation and Oppenheim and Putnam's (1958) "The Unity of Science as a Working Hypothesis." More recent philosophers of science have opted for a more pragmatic and heuristic approach to interscience theoretical connections (Mellor, 1995, 2006; Sklar, 1967).

The notion that a relatively simple, common scientific principle cutting across most areas of science exists is highly appealing. Previous unity of science efforts have been largely theoretically driven, while the motivating force behind some of today's attempts at scientific integration seems largely sociocultural. Sometimes, the current movement does not appear to be the product of a body of evidence from empirical research on how natural things and events are interrelated as much as it reflects enthusiasm for synthesis for synthesis sake. There is more to The Science of Consequences' attempts at integration than simply excitement about synthesis, but it isn't always clear where scientifically rooted information ends and enthusiasm for integration of fields of study begins.

The Science of Consequences is at its root a book about hypothesized causation, but that sounds too theoretical for her target readers to whom the book is being marketed (Pavlus, 2012), so the reader is told the book is really about consequences. Philosophically, cause and the effect refer to circumstances in which the second event is understood as a consequence of the first. The Science of Consequences deals with proposed common denominators among various temporal sequences of antecedent causes and their associated consequences, though yesterday's consequence may become today's cause. Throughout the book the author uses the word consequence several ways, one in Skinner's sense of reinforcing events and the other as an outcome of a previous cause, more broadly. Heuristically, other types of causes may be (a) immediately and concurrent with a reinforcing event, (b) short-term transient changes associated with other events, or (c) long-term enduring sequelae (see Table 1). Consequences are not nearly as simple as they might initially seem to be.

Table 1 Consequence Examples: Types, Time Frame, Paradigms,
& Outcomes

Time Frame    Participant  Consequence      Paradigm

Immediate

              Rat          Positive         [S.sub.D] > R >
                           reinforcement    [S.sup.r] food

              Child        Punishment       [S.sup.D] > R >
                                            P-room time out

Concurrent

              Rat          Positive         [S.sup.D] > R >
                           reinforcement >  [S.sup.r] food >
                           brain dopamine   Dopamine release > DA
                           release & D2     binding to D2
                           binding (a)      receptors

              Rat          Positive         [S.sup.D] > R >
                           reinforcement >  [S.sup.r] food >
                           c-Fos gene       C-Fos gene activation
                           activation (b)   > increased dendritic
                                            spines

Intermediate

              Human adult  Obesity          [S. … 
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