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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Extraordinary Grant Report by Masi Noor

05.09.2016, by Sibylle Classen in grant report

Liverpool John Moores University, UK

Although social psychological research has contributed to important insights in the last three decades, typically such insights have been based predominantly on laboratory studies and increasingly on online studies from Amazon Mechanical Turk. While such insights are undoubtedly useful, they lack ecological validity (Paluck & Green, 2010). In fact, the lack of naturalistic settings in laboratories may not allow for participants to react the way they would do in everyday life situations. Such constraints have critical implications for testing theories and offering effective policy recommendations. Of particular concern is the way important insights may be missed due to testing theories solely in laboratories.

To illustrate, following Kitty Genovese murder in New York during which none of the 40 people who had witnessed the murder intervened, laboratory-based research supported bystander’s apathy and diffusion of responsibility as popular accounts for the tragedy. It was not until researchers, like Piliavin, Rodin, and Piliavin (1969) tested these concepts in the New York subway and found that, compared to laboratory participants, real-life subway passengers were much more likely to help model victims and that such help was particularly available among large groups. Thus, if laboratory-based findings are to be used to develop social interventions and inform policy, then testing them in the field must become a prerequisite.

In order to revive the practice of field studies, I used the generous funding offered by EASP to do the following:

  • First, I visited scholars in Israel (colleagues from Tel Aviv University & University of Haifa) and the U.S. (colleagues from NYU and CUNI) with interest and actual experience of conducting fieldwork to galvanize the development of an international network of field experimenters.
  • Second, These meetings were used to design concrete and collaborative field research projects on topics, such as testing the impact of intergroup perspective-taking in the Middle East and examining the impact of police violence on the Black community in North America.
  • Third, While travelling I recruited over 30 junior and senior scholars from over 20 institutions for the network. The next goal of this network is to prepare a bid for a joint Small to Medium Group Meeting to magnify the impact of the network’s activities and to draw attention to the importance of field experiments.
  • Fourth, Productive face-to-face and skype meetings were also held to discuss the longterm objectives of the network, among others, to guest-edit a Special Issue (e.g., in EJSP or JASP) and write an edited book on the theoretical, methodological and empirical strengths of field experiments.

The network’s aims and objectives were introduced and presented at the ISPP annual meeting in Warsaw, Poland and will be also promoted in the upcoming German Psychology Conference in Leipzig, Germany. We thank the EASP for enabling us to initiate this project.