Social sciences play a major role in society in explaining and influencing human behaviour. We traditionally study economics, psychology or sociology to explain our behaviour, but also to learn how we can change and improve it. These days, brain science is another popular field, in which we look to our brain to account for our behaviour. But is all this scientific knowledge really useful in our everyday actions? What does it mean, for example, to explain our behaviour by referring to a well-functioning or a poorly functioning brain? To what extent is such a statement still really about my behaviour, and does it really account for it? I analyse the gap between social science theory and everyday practice by comparing different explanations of our behaviour. In our everyday explanations of our behaviour, we like to refer to thoughts, wishes, goals, and desires, all of which make our behaviour human and personal. In the social sciences, I argue, these aspects play a secondary role. This means that there is a major limitation when it comes to how relevant the social sciences are to our everyday experience. To close this gap, we need to radically rethink our ideas about human behaviour and our explanations for it.
Frank Hartmann (Rotterdam, 1966) has worked as Professor of Accounting at Radboud University since 2020. He obtained his PhD in Accounting from Maastricht University in 1997. In 1998, he was appointed professor at the University of Amsterdam and later Erasmus University. Frank has authored and co-authored several academic articles and textbooks in the field of accounting and control, in which he focuses on steering and influencing human behaviour. Frank sees the academic field of accounting not so much as the ‘science of accounting’ but as the science of behavioural accountability. In his second PhD thesis, which he will defend at Radboud University on 21 November, he offers a philosophical analysis of the meaning of behavioural accountability and the limitations of the social sciences in explaining human behaviour. Frank has been married for 25 years and has three children.