The social sciences describe typical patterns of behavior and development. Human thought, human behavior and human interaction, both individual and collective, are influenced in predictable ways by a combination of both internal and external factors. Some factors are common to the entirety of humankind; some are shared by subgroups; some are uniquely distinctive of particular individuals in particular circumstances. We examine factors that maintain stability and factors that cause change; factors that contribute to the achievement of success as well as to dysfunction. We explore methods for maximizing success and minimizing dysfunction. We emphasize the role of diversity and of personal responsibility. We devise concepts and terminology to organize our understanding of these factors and their influence.
We rely on scientific observation and theory to address issues. We critically ask of all assertions, how do we know that? Under what circumstances and in what sense is it true, and where does it fall apart? How far can we generalize a finding? What complicating considerations exist? What misconceptions and fallacies should we be alert to? What remains to be addressed?
We introduce students to the scientific tools designed to help us investigate these matters, and to the body of research thus generated, as well as to the major relevant theories. We also critically explore the relation between scientifc findings and social values.
We examine social, educational and regulatory institutions. We help students understand how to operate within and contribute to these institutions.