5 Law & Soc'y Rev. 135 (1970-1971)
Nomotics - The Science of Human Rule Systems

handle is hein.journals/lwsocrw5 and id is 137 raw text is: Nomotics
The Science of Human Rule Systems
ROBERT HOGAN - The Johns Hopkins University
NANCY HENLEY - University of Maryland
Several philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists have recently begun to
reexamine the problem of explanation in social science.1 Instead of describing
man in terms of organized traits, needs, drive-cathexes, coping and defense
mechanisms, or self-actualizing tendencies, the new movement is concerned with
man as rule follower. This paper outlines the essentials of such an approach
(nomotics-from the Greek nomos, law, convention-refers to the study of
human rule systems), beginning with an examination of four behavior systems
which can be conceptualized as networks of rule-governed activities. We describe
some key properties of rule systems, point out certain important differences in
the manners in which they are used, and suggest methods for studying rule
systems in general. We also present an analysis of the topic of obedience, a
central factor in the operation and preservation of any given system.
Even the most unreflective person appreciates the utility of rules for the
conduct of human affairs. Somewhat more reflection is necessary, however, to
recognize that the careful acting-out of rule-guided activities appeals to
something very deep and powerful in the human psyche. The intrinsic reward of
ritualized behavior accounts for a variety of seemingly pointless activities: the
phenomenon of nonbelievers attending church years after the onset of their
apostasy, the stylized and often ludicrous procession of the Christmas season,
and indeed, all those activities which the anthropologists describe as rites of


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