I have a few more thoughts about the graph of Ngrams of social science disciplines that I posted about last week.
The trends in economics, sociology, and anthropology appear, to my eye, to be correlated. What cultural factors, cause this? General interest in the formal study of social behavior? What causes that? Perhaps the correlated short-term, i.e. year-to-year variation, is best understood as having a different cause from the correlated trends over longer periods? In particular, why did each term decline since the 1990s, with a particularly big drop-off from 2007 to 2008?
Perhaps the last year of data is unreliable, but should we be worried about the trend?
I plugged in the name of a practitioner of each discipline: “sociologist, economist, political scientist, anthropologist, psychologist” to see if I noticed any differences. The basic trends look the same, but there are some differences. e.g. in the last two decades, “anthropologist” is more popular than you’d expect given “anthropology” and “economist” is less popular than you’d expect given, “economics.” I can easily spin a story: anthropology is more subjective, so the identity of the researcher is more relevant. I can think of more possibilities, but none of them explains why this difference only becomes notable in the last twenty years.
Looking over a longer time period, we can see that each of the human sciences has become more prominent since 1900 (at least by this measure. In addition to other concerns, consider that economics was once known as “political economy.”)
The “harder” sciences have also done well. Physics and mathematics growing faster in the first half of the century, but then stagnating as biology (tracking sociology amazingly closely) catches up.
I’m having a lot of fun fooling around with these ngrams, so I’ll probably do at least one more post using them soon. I highly encourage interested parties to check out the paper published in Science which will introduce you to a far greater range of types of analysis that this dataset allows.