Social facts can be thought of as the ideological building blocks that control epistemological possibility—that is, what human beings can "know" and "do." This means that whenever an individual makes any conscious or unconscious decision, it is not due to some free agency that always finds the optimal choice; rather, it is the combinatorial product of an extremely large number of social facts that are taken up and validated against each other to produce a rational outcome. In this way, it closely follows the metaphor of biological evolution, posing a model for how ideas might self-animate to compete for survival.
The theory of social facts is a helpful tool for metacognition, the process of deconstructing extant thought patterns to search for possible flaws. It also helps explain the inefficiency and irrationality inherent in decision-making—in Durkheim's social facts model, it is only natural that usually, at least some social facts will mistakenly survive and become incorporated in an outcome. Examples of social facts can be small or informal, like the belief that rigorous debate is good for human flourishing, or large or formal, like the presence of the US government with all of its legal and ideological complexities.