Science is a self-limited practice that confines its conclusions to what can be observed; but the scientific method cannot begin without a tentative answer to some question — a hypothesis. A proposal consists of that hypothesis and a means of testing the hypothesis. Work that has cleared new paths of inquiry in science provide ideas for future research proposals.
Dunbar and Dog-Waggery
There is an old saying about purposes being frustrated by administrative rules that were originally meant to facilitate said purpose. That saying is that “the tail has begun to wag the dog.” Evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar has suggested that human beings are capable of managing a limited number of personal relationships — his number is 150. Beyond that number, human groups may require rule-based — as opposed to relationship-based — connections to coordinate activity and resolve conflict. The organization of management structures may inevitably lead to arbitrary social hierarchies. Research is needed to study the correspondence between group sizes and institutional “dog-waggery,” or rules that frequently frustrate the purposes that management and administration were originally designed to support.
Valery Chaldize, Alf Hornborg and others have suggested for some time now that there is a connection between the physical law of entropy — the Second Law of Thermodynamics — and economics. Their suggestion is more than the simple assertion that economic activity is — like all physical activity — ultimately entropic. Hornborg, in particular, asserts in his book “The Power of the Machine” that money functions as an eco-semiotic phenomenon — that money functions as an ecological sign that actually accelerates thermodynamic disorder. Measurement of monetary activity correlated with physical activities stimulated by money transactions — near and far — could conceivably describe the thermodynamic character of money.
The controversial Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted in 1973 by social scientist Phillip Zimbardo. The experiment placed college students in roles as prisoners and prison guards; and the experiment was terminated early when those in the guard roles devolved into dangerously abusive behavior in a few days. One tentative conclusion from the experiment was that roles in which cruelty seemed built-in to performance can exert a powerful determinative influence on people. One situation outside of prison where a job obliges an individual to control whole populations is military occupation. Follow-up studies need to be conducted to determine whether acting as part of a military occupation may be a role that inheres with the potential for abusive behavior and generalized hostility toward the occupied population.
In 1997, Elizabeth Loftus published an article in “Scientific American” that cited experimental data casting serious doubt on the notion of “repressed memory.” Research showed that “memories” could successfully be planted by suggestion that seemed very real to the person who remembered. This raises several general questions about the nature of memory itself, bit it raises a particular question about the already-disputed value of eyewitness testimony in criminal trials. Research that simulates situations that will be later recalled for mock-trial recounting needs to be conducted to show whether and how eyewitness testimony can be influenced by suggestions from police interviews, legal deposition interviews and questions on the stand in court.
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