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      The Task of Social Psychology Is to Explain Behavior not Just to Observe it


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          Doliński (2018, this issue) deplores the decline of behavior observation in social psychology since the 1960’s and asks whether (social-) psychology is still a behavioral science. I question both, that there was a decline and that direct behavior observations are essential for a science of behavior. After all, behavior can also be inferred from outcomes and other traces of behavior. During the alleged heydays of behavioral observation, social psychology was threatened by a crisis partly precipitated by Wicker’s (1969) demonstration that verbal attitude measures were often unrelated to behavioral responses towards attitude objects. His critique was devastating, because social psychology at that time relied heavily on rating scales as dependent measure. The advance of the social cognition movement in the 1970’s was to provide social psychology with new techniques (e.g., priming, cognitive load, reaction time techniques) that eased the reliance on rating scales. At the same time, it became insufficient to merely show a relationship between an external event and a behavioral response and to rely on speculations about the internal processes that might have been responsible for this relationship. Instead, studies had to assess the cognitive and motivational processes assumed to link those external events, typically – but not always – using social cognition techniques. This required additional studies leading to a decline in the proportion of studies reporting behavioral observations. I illustrate this development with one of my own research programs and also suggest that in this example an outcome may be a more valid measure of behavior than behavioral observations.

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          Social psychology as history.

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            Psychology as the Science of Self-Reports and Finger Movements: Whatever Happened to Actual Behavior?

            Psychology calls itself the science of behavior, and the American Psychological Association's current "Decade of Behavior" was intended to increase awareness and appreciation of this aspect of the science. Yet some psychological subdisciplines have never directly studied behavior, and studies on behavior are dwindling rapidly in other subdisciplines. We discuss the eclipse of behavior in personality and social psychology, in which direct observation of behavior has been increasingly supplanted by introspective self-reports, hypothetical scenarios, and questionnaire ratings. We advocate a renewed commitment to including direct observation of behavior whenever possible and in at least a healthy minority of research projects.
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              Attitudes versus Actions: The Relationship of Verbal and Overt Behavioral Responses to Attitude Objects


                Author and article information

                Social Psychological Bulletin
                Social Psychological Bulletin
                29 May 2018
                : 13
                : 2
                : e26131
                [1 ] University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands University of Groningen Groningen Netherlands
                Author notes
                Corresponding author:

                Wolfgang Stroebe (Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1. 9712 TS Groningen, Netherlands. E-mail: wolfgang.stroebe@ 123456gmail.com )

                Wolfgang Stroebe

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                : 4 February 2018
                Self URI (journal-page): https://journals.psychopen.eu/
                Forum Paper
                Behavior and Cognition
                Social Cognition
                Social Psychology

                crisis of social psychology,behavioral outcomes,goal conflict model of eating behavior,cognitive revolution,behavioral observations,social cognition


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