Human beings are complicated decision-makers. They use their brains to seek and weigh information and consider options, but they also follow their hearts and go with their guts. Social scientists use terms like embodiment and subjectivity to recognize this complexity. We bring these and related conceptual tools to the study of pathways. Our researchers are sensitive to how people’s prior experiences, stores of cultural knowledge, and identities — as women or men, Black, white, Asian, or Latino, “kids” or “grownups” for examples — influence how they make sense of opportunities at school and work. Many pathways researchers attend to the importance and nuances of motivation in shaping how people confront education and work opportunities. Following rich strands of work in social psychology and feminist theory, they also recognize that emotions are a big part of how people make sense of choices, situations, organizations and one another.
As a research community, we work to complicate simple models of consideration and choice grounded in instrumental logic with more nuanced understandings how people navigate school and work as embodied persons.