Experiments in social psychology: Science or self-deception?


Journal Article

Criticisms of the very idea of experimentation in social psychology are longstanding; a focal claim recently has been that social psychological hypotheses are non-empirical. We contest this claim, but argue that many experiments in social psychology are pointless nonetheless because they are fundamentally circular. Testing hypotheses requires operationalization; operationalization requires assumptions; and in social psychology, we argue, the necessary assumptions often already imply that the hypotheses can be confirmed. Confirmability of the hypotheses of a number of experiments recently reported in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology is shown to be implied by two illustrative truistic principles central to theories assumed in any tests of these hypotheses. We suggest that research aimed at finding specifically social psychological laws may only yield unfalsifiable truisms, while useful social psychological research aims elsewhere. © 2001, Sage Publications. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wallach, L; Wallach, MA

Published Date

  • January 1, 2001

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 11 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 451 - 473

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0959-3543

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0959354301114001

Citation Source

  • Scopus