OK, more data, no new knowledge

It’s not really a question of hating social sciences. Hell, there were a lot of good social scientists. Like Engel and Weber and Durkheim. Maybe not Freud. But the point is: Do we need to have data to prove something we know? Or, to put it more precisely, what if the results were different? What then? How would you interpret it?

Here’s the experiment. Some Canadian women were split into two groups: one group was told that leaving the country permanently (I guess to the US) would be easier in the future; the other group was told it would be harder. Then they all were asked about a series of injustices, like: men make more than women at the same skill level, etc. And guess what? Those that thought they had to stay put a better spin on it.

What would have happened if the opposite happened? Would there be a theory that explained that? Well, who knows?

You  can read the news release here. The results are supposed to be in a journal called Psychological Science and the authors were Kristin Laurin, Steven Shepherd and Steven Shepherd of the University of Waterloo. I’m not going to track down the article. And frankly, I wouldn’t read it anyway. And they probably want you to pay for it.

Here’s my take. Try to devise a social psychology experiment about it: We’re all trapped. We’re all compromised. Confronted with that fact, we try to do our best.

OK, maybe if you put some people in a death camp you could construct an experiment. But didn’t somebody try that before?

Try this hypothesis. It comes from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamasov somewhere. If a person has to live on a 4′ x 4′ platform or otherwise die, he’ll always pick the platform. So, how do you devise the experiment? And if you could and you got different results, how would you use them?

I have to admit: I just don’t get most social psychology “research.”

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