Actions Can Speak as Loud as Words: Measuring Behavior in Psychological Science

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Abstract

It has been argued that there is a growing trend in personality and social psychological science concerning the preference of self-report measures over the use of direct observations of behavior for the outcome variables of interest. Augmenting the use of self-reports with measures of behavior helps achieve methodological pluralism that allows researchers to triangulate on the phenomenon of interest and have increased confidence in understanding the phenomenon. To facilitate this process, we discuss a sample of social psychological and personality studies published during APA’s ‘Decade of Behavior’ that use straightforward and innovative ways of measuring behavioral outcome variables. Specifically, we identify three different strategies for incorporating behavior in a study: behavioral traces, behavioral observations, and behavioral choice. In each case, we show how measures of behavior complement self-report measures. By making a conscientious effort to include more behavior measures in our research, we can broaden the appeal of psychological science by enhancing our understanding of the causes and antecedents of human behavior.

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