Rich Rules

We will look more at rich Rules in section xx.

Life is full of impressive examples in which we discuss claims of causation or at least influence between Variables, even though it would be a real challenge to list their Levels.

Looking back at an earlier example:

Writing the connection like this exposes the two Variables involved.

the Board launched a major revision of strategy ((no, yes)) !Rule: something really complicated

 the report contents were: ((rich))

So although the report Variable could have trillions of different Levels (all the different possible contents the report could have), only a large subset of them would lead to the major revision of strategy.

Another possible configuration:

the Board launched a major revision of strategy *yes--* ((no, yes)) !Rule: equals

 the report contents were *damning--* ((no, yes))

where the Rule equals would just mean true if true, false if false. However, this isn’t the same thing as the previous rendering - it says something like “because the report contents were damning, the Board launched a major revision of strategy”, which isn’t quite the same thing.

Painting competition

Another example - children’s paintings sent in to a painting competition. Each picture could be, say, given a score by judges. So the judges’ score and the painting form a Mechanism. Each painting can be seen as a Level of the Variable covering “all the different possible paintings” - which of course one could never precisely delineate. Nevertheless, here is a simple Rule:

Expert score ((1,2,3,4,5)) 


This is a perfectly good causal model in Theorymaker, and I’d argue, in English too:

The response of the management committee !Rule:incomplete 

 The contents of the financial report

… even though there is a world of things not precisely defined, for example, are we thinking of vaguely linear Variables on some negative - positive axis? Or are they free of even that restriction?

Sub-symbolic Rules?

Maybe some Rules are simply not capable of being expressed symbolically - what in AI are called “sub-symbolic” algorithms,

Structure for narratives

Suppose all we have is pieces of narrative-like theory, with no numbers or measurement at all, all with rich Variables and rich Rules. Even so, Theories of Change can provide a way to organise them and join them up. It’s not of course the only way - in particular one could join them up narratively - but it might be a good compromise between flavour and structure, emic and etic.

Much talk about increasing distrust of statistics (Davies 2017) - people having negative reactions even to positive stories because they were told in terms of numbers.


Davies, William. 2017. “How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next | William Davies | Politics | The Guardian.” The Guardian.