What is “Behavioral and Social Science?”

Years ago, when I first visited the AABSS website and considered whether or not to generate a potential proposal, I recall this question being in my mind. Did the idea I had intended to propose qualify as behavioral science or social science? Entire books likely have been written on the subject, so the answer provided here is intended only to operationally describe the constructs for purposes of submitting an AABSS proposal.

Social science generally addresses issues relating to how data impacts people as groups or how it possesses social implications and behavioral science targets more individual influences as data affects cognitive or lifestyle change. In both cases, science is involved. As such, juried review at AABSS likely will screen out proposals that involve mostly pure art, music, philosophy, religion, foreign language, mathematics, geography and similar subject matters that traditionally have been classified as being humanities. Similarly, AABSS peer-reviewers likely would not favorably review proposals of research in the “hard sciences,” such as physics, chemistry, astronomy, microbiology, and the like.

This does not imply, of course, that AABSS submissions cannot engage humanities or the hard sciences—or that proposals must be independent of them. For example, we welcome presentations that involve technology—as it is used by individuals and as it impacts people’s worlds or perceptions. But we would not approve a study that presented, say, how a new microchip was being engineered. Conference presentations require a social or behavioral component in order to be considered appropriate for AABSS. There are no specified academic disciplines that represent AABSS presenters; rather, presentations typically represent diverse fields, including sociology, anthropology, education, psychology, business, technology, criminal justice, or political science, to name a few. The unifying feature at AABSS is that presentations possess a social or behavioral science component to them, irrespective of specific discipline.