Behavioural Mechanisms in the Social Sciences, 7.5 credits (771A13)

Beteendemekanismer i samhällsvetenskapen, 7.5 hp

Main field of study

Computational Social Science


Second cycle

Course type

Programme course


Sarah Valdez

Course coordinator

Sarah Valdez

Director of studies or equivalent

Course offered for Semester Weeks Language Campus VOF
F7MCD Master´s Programme in Computational Social Science 1 (Autumn 2018) v201839-201843 English Norrköping o

Main field of study

Computational Social Science

Course level

Second cycle

Advancement level


Course offered for

  • Master´s Programme in Computational Social Science

Entry requirements

A bachelor's degree or equivalent in the humanities, social-, cultural-, behavioural-, natural-, computer-, or engineering-sciences.
English corresponding to the level of English in Swedish upper secondary education (English 6/B).

Intended learning outcomes

After completion of the course, the student should at an advanced level be able to:

  • formulate explanations of behavior based on the underlying cognitive mechanisms;
  • evaluate compatibilities and incompatibilities between various mechanistic explanations of behavior;
  • generalize specific behaviors into larger theoretical frameworks to explain social action;
  • draw from various theoretical approaches to hypothesize specific behaviors under various social conditions;
  • construct theoretical models that link micro-level behaviors to macro-level outcomes.

Course content

This course will explore a broad range of mechanisms to explain human behavior at the individual level. It covers rational choice explanations of action, heuristic decision-making, such as satisficing, and cognitive biases that influence behavior. The material is interdisciplinary and may draw from fields such as sociology, economics, psychology, and neuroscience. The focus is placed on the micro foundations of behavior, but presented within the context of linking the micro-actions of social actors to macro-social outcomes.

Teaching and working methods

The teaching consists of lectures, readings, and seminars. Homework and independent studies are a necessary complement to the course.
Language of instruction: English.


The course is examined through written assignments, active participation in seminars, and a written individual final assignment. Detailed information about the examination can be found in the course's study guide.

Students failing an exam covering either the entire course or part of the course twice are entitled to have a new examiner appointed for the reexamination.

Students who have passed an examination may not retake it in order to improve their grades.



Other information

Planning and implementation of a course must take its starting point in the wording of the syllabus. The course evaluation included in each course must therefore take up the question how well the course agrees with the syllabus. 

The course is carried out in such a way that both men´s and women´s experience and knowledge is made visible and developed.


Institutionen för ekonomisk och industriell utveckling


Hedström, Peter, Swedberg, Richard, (1998) Social mechanisms: an analytical approach to social theory, Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 9780521593199,9780521596879,0521593190,0521596874

Manzo, Gianluca, editor., (2014) Analytical sociology: actions and networks John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 9781119940388,1119940389


Aksoy, O., Gambetta, D., Behind the veil: The strategic use of religious garb, European Sociological Review 2016, 32(6):792–806

Andrew Healy, Gabriel S. Lenz, Substituting the End for the Whole: Why Voters Respond Primarily to the Election-Year Economy, American Journal of Political Science 2014, 58(1): 31-47

Ap Dijksterhuis, Maarten W. Bos, Loran F. Nordgren, Rick B. van Baaren, On Making the Right Choice: The Deliberation-without-Attention Effect, Science 2006, 311(5736): 1005-1007 Deliberation-Without_Attention.pdf

Bearman, P. S., Moody, J., Stovel, K., Chains of Affection: The Structure of Adolescent Romantic and Sexual Networks, 2004

Biggart, N.W., Beamish, T.D., Biggart, N.W., Beamish, T.D., The economic sociology of conventions: Habit, Custom, Practice, and Routine in Market Order, Annual Review of Sociology 2003, 29(1): 443-464

Breen, R, Goldthorpe, JH, Explaining educational differentials - Towards a formal rational action theory, Rationality and Society 2003, 9(3): 275-305

Brewer, Marilynn B., In-group bias in the minimal intergroup situation: A cognitive-motivational analysis, Psychological Bulletin 1979, 86(2):307-324

Damon Centola, Robb Willer, Michael Macy, The Emperor’s Dilemma: A Computational Model of Self‐Enforcing Norms, American Journal of Political Science 2005, 58(1): 31-47

Debra Friedman, Michael Hechter, The Contribution of Rational Choice Theory to Macrosociological Research, Sociological Theory 1988, 6(2): 201-18

Dimaggio, Paul, Culture and Cognition American Journal of Political Science 1997, 58(1): 31-47

Fehr, E., Gintis, H., Human motivation and social cooperation: Experimental and analytical foundations, Annual Review of Sociology 2007, 33(1): 43-64 Nature and Social Cooperation.pdf

Hedström, Peter, Ylikoski, Petri., Causal mechanisms in the social sciences, Annual Review of Sociology 2014, 36:49-67

Kahneman, Daniel, Maps of Bounded Rationality: Psychology for Behavioral Economics, American Economic Review 2003, 93(5): 1449-75

Lehman, Darrin R., Chi-yue Chiu, Schaller, Mark, Psychology and Culture, Annual Review of Psychology 2004, 55:689-714

Pettigrew, Thomas F., Future directions for intergroup contact theory and research, International Journal of Intercultural Relations 2008 32(3):187-199

Schwartz, B., et al, Maximizing versus satisficing: happiness is a matter of choice, Journal of personality and social psychology 2002, 83(5): 1178-1197

Sheldon Stryker, Peter J. Burke, The Past, Present, and Future of an Identity Theory Social Psychology 2000, 63(4): 284-297

Simon, H.A., Invariants of human behavior, Annual Review of Psychology 1990, 41(1):1-19

Vaisey, Stephen, Motivation and justification: A dual-process model of culture in action, American Journal of Sociology 2009, 114(6): 1675-1715

Valdez, Sarah, Visibility and Votes: A Spatial Analysis of Anti-immigrant Voting in Sweden, Migration Studies 2014, 2(2):162-188

OBLX Mandatory seminars EC 1 credits
UPGX Written report EC 1 credits
ESS2 Essay (Revised draft) EC 2.5 credits
ESS1 Essay (First draft) EC 1 credits
REDX Oral presentation EC 2 credits

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