Types of reactivity in the human sciences

A NOS-HS Nordic exploratory workshop series 2019-2020

by Marion Godman, Caterina Marchionni and Julie Zahle


The concept of reactivity refers to our reactions to being studied, classified or intervened upon by science, which in turn affect the science itself. These phenomena have worried many due to their possibly threatening the objectivity, scope and policy effectiveness of science.

Reactivity has been the object of study in many philosophical and methodological debates, including the validity of laboratory experiments and social research (both qualitative and quantitative) the reality of human kinds, the challenges of forecasting, and the unintended effects of public measures and economic theories. Often these phenomena are studied in different fields and go under different labels such as “self-fulfilling prophecies”, “reactivity”, “looping effects”, “reflexivity”, and “performativity”. Furthermore, as reactivity affects several stages of the scientific lifespan, the philosophical and methodological studies of those stages tend to proceed separately.

However, the mechanisms that bring about reactive effects seem to cut across both existing labels and these stages. Whether reactivity operates through subjects’ awareness, whether it is self-stabilizing, whether it is sought for, matters a great deal to both scientific methodology and the moral responsibilities of scientists. Therefore, charting the differential mechanisms is crucial for understanding how to meet the challenge posed to research design, scientific classification, and intervention.

The series is composed of three workshops:

1. Reactivity and the Research Process (Bergen 2020)

2. Reactivity and Human Categories (Copenhagen 2020)

3. Reactivity and Intervention (Helsinki 2020)


  • The call for papers for the third workshop (Helsinki 18-20 2021) is now out. Deadline for submission: 16 April. The call for paper can be found here.