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Behavior Is Worth 1,000 Words

Friday, February 8, 9:30 - 10:45 AM

There has been a rapid shift in social psychology in recent years from the lab and field to on-line studies. In 2003-2004, only 4 out of 298 paper published in JPSP—1%-- included studies that used an on-line sample (Skitka & Sargis, 2006). Today, the trend line is reversed: Most studies rely on on-line samples. The field’s reliance on on-line studies has a host of advantages, but some costs as well, including a decrease in behavioral research and high impact (but often slow) science. The goal of this plenary session is to remind ourselves that social psychology is the scientific study of how people’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior are influenced by those around them, and to provide some provocative examples of contemporary behavioral and field research and how powerful it can be.

Linda Skitka headshot
Linda Skitka
2019 SPSP President
University of Illinois at Chicago



Speaker: Thomas Talhelm, University of Chicago Booth Business
Using Chair Moving in Starbucks to Measure Psychological Differences

Thomas Talhelm headshotTraditional rice farmers had to exchange labor and coordinate irrigation in a way that most wheat farmers did not. We tested whether modern China has cultural differences that fall along historical rice and wheat areas. To test differences, we moved chairs together in Starbucks so that they were partially blocking the aisle. People in wheat regions were more likely to move the chair out of the way. People in southern China were more likely to adjust the self to the environment by squeezing through the chairs. We discuss principles for designing behavioral measures and how to overcome difficulties standardizing them.

Speaker: Sylvia Perry, Northwestern University
Investigating White Individuals (Verbal and Nonverbal) Behavioral Responses to Racial Incidents

Sylvia Perry headshotPeople may not always have a consciously accessible understanding of their racial attitudes or biases, and if they do, their responses may be colored by self-presentation concerns. Thus, people’s self-reports about their racial attitudes and beliefs may not reliably predict how they actually think and talk about race in real life. During this discussion, I will highlight how moving beyond survey and short-answer methods—and asking people to speak out loud about race-related incidents—may provide a goldmine of behavioral data (as measured by people’s physiological, verbal, and nonverbal responses) and a unique window into the nuanced ways in which people think and talk about race and racism. This approach has important implications for real-world phenomena, such as how parents socialize their children to think about other groups, and how college students think and talk about race with one another.

Speaker: Elizabeth Levy Paluck, Princeton University
Measuring Behavior Where it Happens

Elizabeth Levy Paluck headshotI present examples of field experiments that attempt to change behavior and then capture those behaviors in the contexts and at the time periods when they naturally occur. I also discuss examples of research strategies that prompt behavioral responses to naturalistic interventions.

Speaker: Robert Cialdini, Arizona State University
Which Behavior Speaks Loudest?

Robert Cialdini headshotIf behavior does indeed speak louder than words, which sort of behavior speaks loudest? I consider myself principally a field researcher and, consequently, am inclined toward a ready answer—behavior from naturally-occurring domains, in which research participants commonly find themselves and are unlikely to suppose they are research participants. Such behavior will have particular value to audiences both within and outside of the scholarly community. In the first instance, effects recorded by researchers measuring this form of behavior stand to reflect more potent human tendencies than those recorded in laboratory contexts, because they will have emerged despite the influence of multiple noncontrolled factors that are characteristic of field settings. For audiences outside of the academic community, behavioral effects from naturally-occurring situations will be more easily interpretable and more personally relevant than laboratory-based effects, making them seem more useful and thereby worthwhile.


2019 Annual Convention
February 7 - 9, 2019
Oregon Convention Center
777 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Portland, Oregon 97232, USA