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old posts: In praise of field studies



My blog started on posterous, which is now defunct.  Today I’m copying over some of my old posts.  I apologize for formatting issues!  Copying and pasting into WordPress seems to be a bit, um, challenging. 

Doug Medin (link below) writes about the importance of psychologists doing field studies. In this brief column he describes some of his favorite psychology studies, none of which occurred in the laboratory. And he offers this observation:</p>
"[I]t was the comments of the discussant, economist David Laibson, that  really captured my attention. His opening slide showed the emblem of the  President's Council of Economic Advisors, and he raised a provocative  question: Why is there no President's Council of Psychological Advisors?  He offered four hypotheses, but the one I focus on here is the  allocation between lab and field studies."
Most of what psychologists do is in the lab. One of my favorite social psychologists, Robert Cialdini, recently retired from his university position because he could no longer publish his (really wonderful!) field studies in the top social psychology journals. Why? Hard to say, though part is about fundability of research, part about appropriating the methods of biological sciences, which are often difficult to put into the field. (Cialdini has gone on to do research on sharing of information in energy bills as a means to reduce energy usage.)
Psychologists have little say in public policy, and yet we should have things to say because public policy is about behavior--facilitating education and health behavior, discouraging criminal behavior, and the like. How can we shape what we do to bring about that Council of Psychological Advisors. What are the consequences of the voice of psychologists not being heard in that chorus that shapes policy?

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