stinchcombee! sociological explanation as spectator sport

I wrote about the Stinchcombe Test, which is that idea that if told that two variables are associated with one another, a good sociologist should be able to come up with three different explanations for it. The example I used was three different ways gender bias could have been used to explain a finding in which more people died in hurricanes named after men. Technically, this makes it a Constrained Stinchcombe Test, since I provided three explanations under the constraints that the relationship was (a) a genuinely causal relationship and (b) in one way or another involved gender bias.

It occurred to me later that one could take the idea and turn it into a game, Stinchcombe Pong, where two players would alternate coming up with explanations until one of them was stumped. (A referee might be helpful to provide rulings of overstretched credulity.)

Extreme Stinchcombe Pong would be the hardcore variant where, in each round, not only would you have to provide an explanation of any association, but you also have to provide one hypothetical empirical implication that could be used to distinguish your new explanation from all the others that had been proposed in previous rounds.

With more than two players, the game could be turned into a full-fledged Stinchcom-bee, in which players would each have to provide a new explanation or drop out until eventually someone was the last theorist standing. Via Skype, a series of Stinchcom-bees could be used to provide a more transparent selection mechanism for graduate admissions. Among professional sociologists, an annual Stinchcom-bee Super Bowl could be staged as a special miniminiconference the night before the various one-day miniconferences that precede sociology’s main conference. The winner’s prize can be 100 citations, which the losers will provide by forcing them into other people’s manuscripts when they do peer reviews.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

11 thoughts on “stinchcombee! sociological explanation as spectator sport”

    1. Ha. The inadvertently cruel part, of course, is that I think the official part of my sabbatical just ended. BUT I HAVE THE SUMMER. O, GLORIOUS SUMMER.


    1. Thanks. You know, a strange cognitive difference between Facebook/Twitter posting and dipping my toes back in blogging is that I’ve gotten very used to the like/favorite button. So I read a comment and think, “Where’s the like button? WHERE’S THE LIKE BUTTON??”


      1. I’m think WordPress does have a like option now. You might poke around your settings. I’ve gotten some occasional “like” notices on posts; I’m not quite sure where they come from.


  1. Charge admission at the door, award donated prizes, and I think we’re on our way to the start-up funds needed to launch SocSci, the professional association.


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