Sociocultural Factors

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What are sociocultural factors? How should they be defined?

When changes in the scientific mosaic occur due to factors outside of what a mosaic considers to be "intellectual", those sources of change are referred to as "sociocultural factors". Sociocultural factors can include individual and group interests, power, politics, economics, etc. The question is how the term sociocultural factors is to be defined.

In the scientonomic context, this question was first formulated in 2016. The question is currently accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by Scientonomy community. At the moment, the question has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.


In the Aristotelian-Medieval mosaic, the Cartesian mosaic, and much of the Newtonian mosaic, scientists were for the most part strictly rationalist — a view which dictates that scientific beliefs are a consequence only of reason and evidence.1p. 150,2p. 4 The distinction between intellectual and sociocultural influences in science were not clearly defined, as there were not yet disciplinary boundaries within the sciences. Many factors that influenced scientific change that we now consider to be sociocultural organically fell under the rationalist umbrella within this highly holistic enterprise of knowledge-seeking.2p. 4

In his article External and Internal Factors in the Development of Science, Dudley Shapere argues for the formation of disciplinary boundaries within the sciences as a necessary prerequisite for a distinction between intellectual and sociocultural factors. He argues that first, the knowledge-seeking enterprise of science was broken up into a multitude of small specialized disciplines, each smaller discipline with its own laws that dictated the behaviour of particular phenomena. Following from here, scientists in the nineteenth-century began to unify the multitude of smaller disciplines under general laws or Grand-Unified Theories, which were all conceptually and logically compatible with each other. Once scientific sub-disciplines were able to be demarcated as either scientific or non-scientific. Once an idea of what constituted as science was formed, it was possible for scientists to label all other disciplines that had not made the internal cut as external to the scientific enterprise.2

The logical positivists were the first to distinguish influences derived from propositions within the sciences as internal factors, and all other influences originating in the realm of society as external factors.3p. 233 Karl Popper also used the terms external and internal when discussing sociocultural factors, and mainly discussed the role of the external factors on theory construction.3p. 233 In 1970, Imre Lakatos suggested that what constitutes as external and what is internal is defined by the methodology of the time. "External history either provides non-rational explanation of the speed, locality, selectiveness etc. of historic events as interpreted in terms of internal history", Lakatos writes in his History of Science and its Rational Reconstruction, "or, when history differs from its rational reconstruction, it provides an empirical explanation of why it differs. But the rational aspect of scientific growth is fully accounted for by one's logic of scientific discovery."4pp. 105-106

Hakob Barseghyan agrees with Lakatos in The Laws of Scientific Change that only a theory of scientific change can tell us which factors are factors are internal to science and which external.3p. 234 However, he argues that if we were to define sociocultural factors as all those factors that are external to scientific change, then the whole question of the role of sociocultural factors would become vacuous; by definition, those factors would never be able to influence scientific change. Therefore, sociocultural factors cannot be defined in terms of external factors. It is due to this that the Scientonomy community doesn't use the terms internal and external to describe intellectual and sociocultural factors.


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Scientonomy1 January 2016Yes

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The term is only loosely described in The Laws of Scientific Change as encompassing all of the non-epistemic factors that affect scientific change including political, economic, and social factors, as well as group and individual interests.3pp. 233-234 A more precise definition is needed.

Open Questions

The following related topic(s) currently lack an accepted answer:

  • Historical Context: What is historical context? How should it be defined? Does it include only the content of the scientific mosaic, or does it also involve non-epistemic sociocultural phenomena? The topic has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.
  • Role of Sociocultural Factors in Method Employment: What is the role of sociocultural factors, such as economics or politics, in the process of method employment? The topic has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.

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  1. ^  Brown, James Robert. (2001) Who Rules in Science? Harvard University Press.
  2. a b c  Shapere, Dudley. (1986) External and Internal Factors in the Development of Science. Science & Technology Studies 4, 1-9.
  3. a b c d  Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
  4. ^  Lakatos, Imre. (1971) History of Science and Its Rational Reconstructions. In Lakatos (1978a), 102-138.


Sinan Karamehmetoglu (2.7%), Nadezhda Woinowsky-Krieger (22.1%), Jacqueline Sereda (11.5%), Paul Patton (7.1%), Hakob Barseghyan (30.3%), Zachery Brown (26.3%)