Pattern 3: Deliberate Privileging of Linearity: The Whole or the Sum of the Parts? Goodson, P. (2010). Theory in Health Promotion Research and Practice. Mississauga, Ontario: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Limitations of Linear Theories Focus on the individual Focus on cognitive factors “the whole is equal to the sum of its parts” “this orderly, linear framework remains the mainstream foundation of the human and social sciences to this day.” (Cooper & Geyer, 2008)
Complexity Theories Offer a non-linear way to explain unpredictability, complexity, and dynamic aspects of behavior “Complex Adaptive Systems (CASs) consist of a set of interacting elements that are able to change and adapt in multiple ways (Zimmerman, Lindberg, & Plsek, 1998).”
Complexity Theories 1.Whole is more than the sum of its parts 2.CASs comprise other CASs 3.Agents within CASs evolve 4.Sustainability depends on diversity 5.Decentralized, or “distributed” control 6.Size of output does not necessarily correspond to size of input 7.Dependence on original conditions (“Butterfly Effect”) 8.CASs drawn to attractors 9.Unpredictable behavior 10.Order to the chaos
What are Attractors?
Examples School district Puzzle Others? Challenges in practice: Allowing a system to self-organize? Recognizing how behavior itself influences the system?
Resnicow & Page, 2008 Potential areas of research – Qualitative methods – Quantitative methods – Physiological mechanism studies – Agent-based and computational modeling
Epidemiology and the web of causation: Has anyone seen the spider? Krieger, N. (1994). Soc. Sci. Med. Vol. 39, No. 7, pp
Epidemiologic Theory Web of Causation and multivariate analyses “paucity of critical reflection” Insufficient preparation of new epidemiologists
Web of Causation MacMahon, Pugh, Ibsen (1960) as a challenge to “chain of causation”
Web of Causation Increased understanding of interaction and confounding Rothman
Problems with Web Omitted discussion of origins Lacks discussion of theory for the model Focus on proximal factors Does not distinguish between individuals and populations “biomedical individualism”
Modern Contributions “environment” ill-defined (Vanderbroucke) Resurgence of single agent theory McKeown’s etiologic groups Social determinants Conclusion: Epi still lacking an ecosocial theory
Ecosocial Framework How to use epidemiological data Greater precision in etiology Better definitions of “lifestyle” Challenge to current definition of “environment” Challenge to rigid distinctions of individual and group level analyses