Most people are avid amateur social psychologists who might have ample wisdom and experience to support their social phenomena conclusions. What sets the social psychologist apart from the amateur observer is that the social psychologist applies systematic methods for studying people in context. While the amateur observer comes to conclusions through experience, the scientist asks questions, conducts experiments, and finds answers (Aronson, 2008; Kenrick, Neuberg, & Cialdini, 2007; Myers, 2008). Stated simply, the amateur observer has wisdom, experience, and culture; the social psychologist has research.
The social psychologist uses the scientific method to identify the lawful relationship among things (Aronson, 2008). The steps in this process are:
- Observe phenomena.
- Guess the lawful relationship of variables in the phenomena.
- Frame the guess as a hypothesis to test.
- Design and experiment to prove or disprove the hypothesis.
Understanding the research methodologies and tools of social psychology helps find answers and generate an understanding of how social psychologists study social behavior while providing amateurs with a foundation for critically assessing research results.