The Unification of the Behavioral Sciences
Each discipline of the social sciences rules comfortably within its own
chosen domain… so long as it stays largely oblivious of the others.
Edward O. Wilson
The combined assumptions of maximizing behavior, market equilib-
rium, and stable preferences, used relentlessly and unflinchingly, form
the heart of the economic approach
While scientific work in anthropology, and sociology and political
science will become increasingly indistinguishable from economics,
economists will reciprocally have to become aware of how constrain-
ing has been their tunnel vision about the nature of man and social
The behavioral sciences include economics, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and political science, as well as biology insofar as it deals with animal and human behavior. These disciplines have distinct research foci, but they include four conflicting models of decision making and strategic interaction, as determined by what is taught in the graduate curriculum and what is accepted in journal articles without reviewer objection. The four are the psychological, the sociological, the biological, and the economic.
These four models are not only different, which is to be expected given their distinct explanatory aims, but are also incompatible. That is, each makes assertions concerning choice behavior that are denied by the others. This means, of course, that at least three of the four are certainly incorrect, and I will argue that in fact all four are flawed but can be modified to produce a unified framework for modeling choice and strategic interaction for all of the behavioral sciences. Such a framework would then be enriched in different ways to meet the particular needs of each discipline.
In the past, cross-disciplinary incoherence was tolerated because distinct disciplines dealt largely with distinct phenomena. Economics dealt with market exchange. Sociology dealt with stratification and social deviance. Psychology dealt with brain functioning. Biology, failing to follow up on Darwin's insightful monograph on human emotions (Darwin 1998),