Social scientists often attempt to discover and specify the conditions under which a particular social process or event takes place. More specifi cally, they seek, often in a rather general way, to fi nd out what causes these processes or events. In fi nding out what causes a social phenomenon, scientists are trying to explain how and why it happens. For example, one could argue a secession of a particular region was to be explained, at least in part, by its wealth relative to the rest of the host state: people want to secede in order not to have to share their region’s wealth with the poorer regions of the host state (see box ‘Economic theories of secession’ below). In such an explanation, it is assumed or explicitly stated that the inhabitants of the seceding region believed that they, as a group or individually, would be better off in a state independent of the rest of the host state and that they wanted or intended to improve their situation or to retain the income or wealth they had at that time by seceding from the host state.