Cumulating Evidence about the Social Animal: Meta-Analysis in Social-Personality Psychology



Like most scientific fields, social-personality psychology has experienced an explosion of research related to such central topics as aggression, attraction, gender, group processes, motivation, personality, and persuasion, to name a few. The proliferation of research can be a monster unless it is tamed with the scientific review strategy of meta-analysis, literally analyses of past analyses that produce a quantitative and empirical history of research on a particular phenomenon. The purpose of this article is to outline the basic process and statistics of meta-analysis, as they pertain to social-personality psychology. Meta-analysis involves: (i) defining the problem under review; (ii) gathering qualified reports and putting their findings and methods into a database, (iii) analyzing that database, and (iv) interpreting the results and reporting them. Use of meta-analytic strategies has paralleled the knowledge explosion in social-personality psychology, but must be used and consumed with careful discernment if the cumulated evidence about the social animal, Homo sapiens, is to have maximal value.