Social & Behavioral Sciences and Humanities

Social & Behavioral Sciences and Humanities: Discoveries and Ideas that Have Changed the Way We Think and the Way We Live Our Lives

Year Institution Discovery Discoverer
1948 Columbia University The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: A self-fulfilling prophecy involves making a prediction based upon a false definition. Once made actions based on the false definition set in motion behavior that result in outcomes that 'prove' the initial prediction true more... Robert K. Merton
1936 Columbia University The Law of Unintended Consequences: Much of Merton's analytic work focused on both consequences of action that were not anticipated by the actor.  more... Robert K. Merton
  Columbia University Anomie: Merton applied the idea of anomie to the disjunction in American society between almost universally shared values and aspirations to be successful and extremely different opportunities for individuals located in different social strata to actually achieve success.   more... Robert K. Merton
1962 Princeton University Paradigm: One of the most highly cited terms in the social sciences- the idea of a paradigm- has become part of our everyday conversation. Kuhn developed a theory of scientific revolutions in which the concept of paradigm was central. Thomas Kuhn
  Columbia University Survey Research and Causal Analysis: Lazarsfeld was perhaps more responsible for the development and widespread use of social surveys, questionnaires, and other empirical data collection techniques, than any other American social scientist. Paul F. Lazarsefld
1948 Columbia University Election Polling in Political Campaigns: Lazarsfeld produced a model of how to understand preferences and the reasons for those preferences. He also introduced the idea of panel analysis where researchers systematically collect information from the same sample of voters at multiple points in time during the election. Paul F. Lazarsefld
  Columbia University Two-Step Flow of Communications: In looking at the way the mass media affects behavior Lazarsfeld demonstrated that personal relationships mediate mass communications and their influence on attitudes and behavior. The mass media affect action in an indirect way ? mediated by opinion leaders who use the mass media for their own purposes as well as by social context. Paul F. Lazarsefld
  Yale University Obedience to Authority:In some of the most ingenious and disturbing social psychological experiments ever conducted Professor Stanley Milgram examined the question of the banality of evil Stanley Milgram
    The problems with eyewitness testimony: Through a series of clever experiments Loftus demonstrated that eyewitness testimony can be highly unreliable and that witnesses often use poor cues to make false identifications. Elizabeth Loftus
  Princeton University Pluralistic Ignorance: Pluralistic ignorance demonstrates the power of group norms and conformity to those norms when people feel they are the only one whose views differ from those held by the rest of the group.  
1966 Johns Hopkins University Equality of Educational Opportunity James S. Coleman
1950 Harvard University The Lonely Crowd: describde changes in the American character that paralleled the larger changes in mass culture and in an increasingly urban industrial society. David Reisman
1973   Thick description: without understanding social context we have difficulty interpreting most actions. Clifford Geertz
  University of Chicago; Columbia University Human Capital Gary Becker; Jacob Mincer
  Stanford University Taylor Rule: An understanding of how monetary policy works in the short-term bond market John taylor
1952 University of Chicago Ideas that led to standard measurements of relative risk -universally used by investment bankers and others; and in turn has been the basis for ?financial engineering? that underlies the practice of diversification, the market of derivatives, and enables the packaging of risk to be sold to those who prefer to bear it. Harry Markowitz
  MIT research on stock pricing with a particular emphasis on the importance of information and expectations; on welfare economics and public finance; on international economics and consumer theory. Beyond all of these areas of work, he was the intellectual father of scores of economists who themselves made seminal contributions to our knowledge and the growth of the field. Paul Samuelson
  MIT Research that has produced a far greater general understanding of the process of long-term growth in advanced economies. Kenneth Arrow; Robert Solow
    David Ricardo
1951 Columbia University The impossibility theorem: where no voting system can transform the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide ranking while also conforming to a set of reasonable voting system criteria Kenneth Arrow
  University of Chicago free-market economic theory: allow markets to operate in an unencumbered way: there should be less government and more reliance on individual responsibility. Milton Friedman
1960s Columbia University; University of Michigan Social Stratificaction and Social Mobility in the United States Peter Blau; Otis Dudley Duncan
1967 Columbia University Effective Scope: This concept has been used to understand behavior patterns of people who are located in social strata or who come from different social backgrounds. David Caplovitz
  Carnegie Mellon University Basic assumption of rationality in standard expected utility theory in economics Herbert Simon
  Columiba University; UC Berkeley; Stanford University Imperfect information: Research focusing on an extremely important basis for market inefficiencies Joseph Stiglitz; George A. Akerlof; Michael Spence
  Columbia University Important contributions to the study of the relationship between inflation and unemployment that violated assumptions of neoclassical information Edmund Phelps
  MIT understanding the nature of public goods Paul Samuelson; Ronald Coase
  Harvard University; Columbia University Important contributions to understand economic development,/b> in less developed nations and to create sustainable environments throughout the world Jeffery Sachs
  MIT generative grammar and universal grammar Noam Chomsky
  University of Chicago The Coase Theorem: In a world where there are no transaction costs, an efficient outcome will occur regardless of the initial allocation of property rights. Ronald Coase
  Columbia University the focused interview Robert K. Merton
  University of Chicago; Columbia University Contributions about behavior as it relates to rational choice and other attributes like emotions: on the conditions under which people make rational choices; the mechanisms responsible for these choices; and the limits to rational choice as a social science theory Jon Elster
1942 University of Minnesota Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI): the most widely used psychological test in the world  
1960s Stanford University Theory of Cognitive Dissonance: when people have inconsistencies between their beliefs and their behavior - which causes psychological tension- they will change their beliefs to be consistent with their behavior rather than change their behavior to fit their beliefs. Leon Festinger
  Syracuse University social scientists demonstrated the effects of institutionalization on physically and mentally disabled individuals. It led to deinstitutionalization movement.  
1948 University of Indiana Research into human sexual behavior Alfred Kinsey
1930s University of Wisconsin Research led to the development of the federal Social Security and Civil Service employment programs. Wisconsin created a poverty institute to study the determinants of poverty and to experimentally study the effects of various social policy alternatives on reducing poverty.  
1968-1999 University of Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics:improved our understanding of the determinants of family income and its changes over time.  
1987 University of Illinois developed a sophisticated, computerized crime mapping system that has been used by the City of Chicago police department since 1987  
  University of Michigan survey of consumer spending and savings decisions: has proven to be an accurate indicator of the future course of the nation?s economy and has become the basis for U.S. Department of Commerce?s index of leading indicators  
1938 Johns Hopkins University accurate dating of archeological excavations in Holy Land and confirmed the authenticity of the Dead Sea Scrolls  
1938 University of Oregon discovered the remnants of 10000 year old bark sandals in an Oregon cave- pushing back the date of known human habitation in the Great Basin by thousands of years  
1972 UC - Irvine created a database containing every ancient Greek manuscript in existence  
1977 University of Pennsylvania published the 20 volumes in first dictionary of Sumerian Language  
  UCLA initiated the preservation of two-dozen endangered languages  
1981 UC - Berkeley collected and interpreted fossils in Ethiopia since 1981 ?that has pushed back the story of human evolution more than 2 million years, to the moment in prehistory when humans separated from chimpanzees?? Tim White
  UCLA showed that primitive life existed on Earth 3.46 billion years ago J. William Schopf
  Stanford University Stanford-Binet IQ Test: Much of the American testing industry from the early part of the 20th century until today ? from I.Q. tests to SAT tests and various tests for professional school admissions ? flow from this original work Lewis Terman
  SUNY stony Brook; Stanford University Network Theory: demonstrates that in marketing or politics, the use of ?weak ties? enables people to reach audiences that would not be accessible through the use of strong ties Mark Granovetter
  Duke University demonstrated the potential prenatal benefits of using dietary alterations of nutrients- like choline- to permanently alter learning and memory later in life. Warren Meck; Christina Williams
  City University of New York Developed theory of portfolio choice Harry Markowitz
  Stanford University theory of price formation for financial assets - Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) William Sharpe
  University of Chicago contributions ot the theory of corporate finance Merton Miller
2003 UCSD; NYU discovered new methods for analyzing economic times series data Clive Granger; Robert Engle
  USC contributed to the fields of second language acquisition and to the study of bilingual education Stephen Krashen
1963 University of Illinois wrote widely on aspects of mental retardation and leaning disorders and was perhaps more responsible than anyone else for the innovations in diagnosis; training; and social policy related to special needs children. Coined the term learning disabilities Samuel A. Kirk
1959 University of Illinois Culture of Poverty: those who lived in poverty were marginal; they suffered from a sense of not belonging & dependency and helplessness. They were aliens in their own country and the sub-cultural values that they developed prevent them from rising out of their poverty. Oscar Lewis
1958 Harvard University Convential wisdom Kenneth Galbraith
  Harvard University structural-functional analysis Talcott Parsons
1899 University of Chicago Conspicuous consumption: refers to the spending of money by people to enhance their status in the eyes of others Thorstein Veblen
  Yale University graphic displays of quantitative information Edward Tufte
  University of Pennsylvania Cognitive Therapy Aaron T. Beck
  Columbia University developed sociolinguistics William Labov
  Harvard University; Columiba University developed concept of post-industrial society Daniel Bell
    Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: argued that there was a direct relationship between the grammatical categories of a person?s language and how that person understands the world and behaves in it Edward Sapir; Benjamin Lee Whorf
  UniversityCollege, London Pearsonian statistics  
  University College, London Fisherian statistics  
  University College, London Neyman-Pearson testing theory  
  Columbia University Wald Decision theory  
  Columbia University Hotelling multivariate analysis  
  University of Chicago factor analysis Lewis Thurstone
  UC berkeley; University of Chicago theory of nonparametrics  
  University of Chicago Modern Baysian statistics and subjective expected utility theory  
  Johns Hopkins Kaplin-Meier and Cox survival analysis  
  Harvard University ideas about the protection of free speech Zechariah Chafee
1964 Yale University The New Property: directly affected Supreme Court decision expanding the 14th Amendment?s due process protections of individuals in their dealing with the government. Charles Reich
  Columbia University work on gener equality and the law Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  University of Michigan innovative work on sexual harassment that led directly to the expansion of the definition of discrimination to include sexual harassment Catherine MacKinnon
  University o Chicago R. A. V. v. The City of St. Paul (1992) The Court?s adoption of central principle that distinguishes content based v. content-neutral speech and of the special importance of viewpoint based restrictions of speech became the dominant interpretative framework for free speech cases Geoffrey Stone
1972 Harvard University A Theory of Justice: important contribution to social contract theory John Rawls
1977 University of Texas at Austin Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop: a major source for many of the significant epigraphic and iconographic discoveries made about ancient American civilization over the last two decades Linda Schele
  Stanford University FM Synthesis: The computational technique that ushered in the era of digital synthesizers; MIDI; desktop music production John Chowning
  Columbia University one of the world's leading literary critic through the creation with others of a new sub-discipline: post-colonial studies Edward Said