Mark Buchanan, The Social Atom: Why the Rich Get Richer, Cheaters Get Caught, and Your Neighbor Usually Looks Like You, New York: Bloomsbury, 2007.
Buchanan is an American physicist and former editor of Nature. In his latest book, he argues that the collective behavior of human beings can be understood and explained more deeply than by the traditional tools of sociology and economics thanks to ideas and modeling techniques drawn from physics. He reviews for a general audience some recent work in this newish field.
The basic idea is to focus on a few properties of human beings that are most relevant to certain phenomena (e.g., the ability to learn and adapt, the tendency to imitate others, the impulse to cooperate) and use them to build simple but powerful models inspired by the physics and mathematics of complex systems.
For instance, the ability of human beings to learn and adapt can explain the fluctuations in the stock markets, group selection can explain the origin of altruism, and simple luck can explain why wealth is distributed in all societies according to a power law (i.e., roughly, why wealth is distributed unequally regardless of institutional differences between societies).
In spite of some occasional simplistic arguments and excessive disdain for alternative approaches, Buchanan makes a strong case for his way of doing behavioral science. If you are interested for an clear and easy introduction to this area, check out his book.
Incidentally, there is a connection between what Buchanan says and certain anti-reductionist arguments in the philosophy of mind. A standard example used by philosophers of physically irreducible properties are those studied by economics. As the example goes, money is multiply realizable and yet, presumably, all monetary transactions fall under the laws of economics. Therefore, economic laws are irreducible to physical laws. Well, if Buchanan is right (and I’m inclined to agree with him), this argument is a big time non sequitur: (1) classical economics is built on a foundation of sand (the fiction of homo oeconomicus), and the supposed laws of classical economics are often false, (2) the true laws of economics are physical laws, with the caveat that physics is general enough to abstract away from differences in how money is implemented in different cases. I think the same point could be made about mental properties/generalizations about the mind.