All fiction is an attempt at some sort of commentary on the world. But sometimes it goes one step beyond that and a story starts to break down complex social interactions into formulas, theorems and thought experiments. It isn't just making observations about how social cliques work but that it is actually approached, described and experimented from a scientific angle.
This may happen with fields that are considered far outside what is considered to be relative to the topic (sociology, psychology). And so you get the interesting sight of a physicist using universe expansion models to help calculate the flow of a party, a physician comparing medical treatments to options in how to confront a friend or a computer programmer applying those skills in organizing a concert. Note that they don't even have to be scientists or highly educated to qualify.
If it gets far enough, there might even be some helpful graphics put up on the screen to visualize the concept. The use of The Big Board
containing formulas, diagrams, flowcharts, footnotes and lots of Greek letters make tend to be popular for a screen capture.
Of course social science is a real thing, many experiments have been conducted on how people interact with the world and our attempts at understanding it. One thing to consider about the examples is that they usually exist within the mind of the scriptwriter and are not based on actual social science (or even reality). Like any science, that is frequently subject to modifications over time
and typically done with careful experimentation. As such some examples may not hold up under close scrutiny.
[[folder:Film -- Live Action]]
- Parodied in Chasing Amy, where Banky illustrates a point to Holden with the image of a four way crossroad with a 100 dollar bill in the middle and on each side is a male friendly lesbian, man hating dyke, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
Banky: "No which one gets the 100 dollar bill?"
Holden: (annoyed) "I don't know, the man hating dyke."
Banky: "Good, now why?"
Holden: "I don't know."
Banky: "Cause the other three are figments of your fucking imagination!"
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide uses this as it's primary gimmick, where Ned spends most every episode revealing tips on how to deal with various social events from school to relationships. The actual guide was seen early on, as well as Ned trying to work out new theories, but both were downplayed later on as the tips became more incidental rather than inclusive to the stories.
- The Big Bang Theory plays this for laughs a lot. The scientist characters often resort to making diagrams, formulas, flow-charts, and using thought experiments in order to help makes personal decisions.
- This includes a psych-out where the group was contemplating what seemed to be a complex equation and it turned out to be a method of deciding the best restaurants adjacent to movie theaters with appropriate snack options.
- One of the most popular and ingenious ones was a flowchart Sheldon created to help make new friends, the really funny thing is that (with the exception of a lack of an infinite loop escape Howard had to devise) it worked!
- How I Met Your Mother often uses this both with the main characters and with the Framing Device narration. Most of the time it is Barney coming up with these things, such as the Hot/Crazy scale (your attractiveness has to match or exceed the level of crazy, on a graph the center line was called the "Vicki Mendoza Diagonal") or the 9 stages of Literally Loving Thy Neighbor.
- Mythbusters has tackled some social myths over the years, one including the concept of Beer Goggles (alcohol makes you more attracted to someone than you would be normally).
- In NUMB3RS, Charlie lives his entire life in math-land, but due to his genius grade-skipping childhood, he's rather uncomfortable with social problems. So he often tries to use mathematics to guide his personal life. Of course he's a mathematician, not a social scientist, and he's analyzing things like love and friendship, so it tends not to work well.