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Beyond Rational Choice: The Social Dynamics of How People Seek Help

A classic problem common to sociology and other social sciences revolves around how people make decisions. Some recent approaches start with and revise an individually focused, rational action framework. While this orientation to building transdisciplinary, multilevel models provides many insights, it fails to capture essential features of social life. The social organization strategy (SOS) framework presented in this article offers a complementary approach to social action in general and decision making in particular. This orientation, a network and event-centered counterpart to rational choice, rests on fundamental principles that distinguish the discipline of sociology: social interaction is the basis of social life, and social networks provide the mechanism (interaction) through which individuals learn about, come to understand, and attempt to handle difficulties. This approach shifts the from individual "choice" to socially constructed patterns of decisions, including consultation with others. Utilization research in medical sociology serves as a case for reviewing theoretical approaches to decision making and provides the background necessary to a theoretical exposition of the SOS approach using data from the National Survey of Access to Medical Care (1975-76.) The results support the utility of pursuing the SOS framework.