When it’s really hard to tell, you have to know there is a problem.
One problem with social psychology’s claim to be a science is that the “edgy” findings so often turn out to be suspect. No surprise there because if they defy normal experience, they probably are suspect.
Put another way, it is easier to tell mature people something about particle physics that truly surprises them (but is true) than it is to tell them something about human nature that truly surprises them (and is also true).
Many people are genuinely surprised to discover that the elementary particles of our universe are non-local. They can be in two places at once. But never mind; that is not something most of us usually deal with in ordinary life. But when social psychologist Diederik Stapel claimed to demonstrate that untidy environments cause more racism, the public was in a better position to judge.
But there is a reverse problem too: The results are unsurprising, but it is hard to say what contribution they would make to science if they are true, as they undoubtedly are. The paper described in “Why Do Haters Have to Hate? Newly Identified Personality Trait Holds Clues” seems to jump right into it:
New research has uncovered the reason why some people seem to dislike everything while others seem to like everything. Apparently, it’s all part of our individual personality — a dimension that researchers have coined “dispositional attitude.”
People with a positive dispositional attitude have a strong tendency to like things, whereas people with a negative dispositional attitude have a strong tendency to dislike things, according to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Throughout the studies the researchers found that people with generally positive dispositional attitudes are more open than people with generally negative dispositional attitudes. In day-to-day practice, this means that people with positive dispositional attitudes may be more prone to actually buy new products, get vaccine shots, follow regular positive actions (recycling, driving carefully, etc.)
This surprising and novel discovery expands attitude theory …
Actually, it is not surprising or novel and doesn’t expand anything. We’ve all dealt with both types of people.
There is even popular lore on the subject: Give a new proposal to some of each of these two types of people, and you will most swiftly and conveniently learn what is good and bad about it.
But how did this good-enough conventional wisdom become science? Thoughts?
Paper: Justin Hepler, Dolores Albarracín. Attitudes without objects: Evidence for a dispositional attitude, its measurement, and its consequences.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2013; 104 (6): 1060 DOI: 10.1037/a0032282