Hijacking Theory with Exemplars & Prototypes: Anchoring & Adjustment Bias in Theoretical Construction

Theories generalized often evidence examples wherein over time understanding drifts away from the general to a reductionist interpretation dependent on initial prototypes in the theory’s explanation of underlying phenomena, thereby exerting a prototypical view established with snuffs out, obfuscates away, and grinds up additional possibilities. Three salient myths will be considered that influence social understandings today, and may very well have served to amplify, mislead, and codify understandings into policies that may have had consequences.

Markus & Kitayama’s (1991) Beyond Independent and Interdependent Views of Self and Other

“… we realize that there may well be important distinctions among those views we discuss as similar and that there may be views of the self and others that cannot easily be classified as either independent or interdependent.” (Markus & Kitayama, 1991, p. 225)

Markus and Kitayama did not imply, nor is the field constrained, nor is intelligent life constrained to a dimension of independence to interdependence. They left this open for additional views.

Merton’s (1938) Strain Adaptation in Spheres (Plural) of Conduct

“These categories refer to role adjustments in specific situations, not to personality in toto. To treat the development of this process in various spheres of conduct would introduce a complexity unmanageable within the confines of this paper. For this reason, we shall be concerned primarily with economic activity in the broad sense, ‘the production, exchange, distribution and consumption of goods and services’ in our competitive society, wherein wealth ha taken on a highly symbolic cast.” (Merton, 1938, p. 676)

Merton did not close the door to strict interpretations of strain being applied strictly in an economic “sphere of conduct”—it was merely a mater of convenience, given the paper was written in 1938 where economics was a salient social fact.

Sykes & Matza’s (1957) After and Before Deviant Acts

“These justifications are commonly described as rationalizations. They are viewed as following deviant behavior and as protecting the individual from self-blame and the blame of others after the act. But there is also reason to believe that they precede deviant behavior and make deviant behavior possible. It is this possibility that Sutherland mentioned only in passing and that other writers have failed to exploit from the viewpoint of sociological theory. Disapproval flowing from internalized norms and conforming others in the social environment is neutralized, turned back, or deflected in advance.” (Sykes & Matza, 1957, pp. 666-667)

Sykes and Matza did not limit techniques of neutralization to the explanation of past behaviors, in fact, quite assertively they drew on Sutherland’s understanding that techniques of neutralization may very well be responsible for clearing the way to “make deviant behavior possible”.