Full-Cycle Social Psychology for Theory and Application



Experimental lab-based research has the ability to carefully control variables and establish causality, but also possesses accompanying weaknesses. Most prominent is its inability to determine the strength or prevalence of phenomena in the natural environment. As a solution, we present a full-cycle approach to social psychology, whereby researchers use naturalistic observation to determine an effect’s presence in the real world, theory to determine what processes underlie the effect, experimentation to verify the effect and its underlying processes, and a return to the natural environment to corroborate the experimental findings. We also discuss ways in which the full-cycle approach lends itself to applied research, how observing the lack of an effect where one is expected can lead to fruitful research, and how field research can offset some of the limitations of carefully controlled laboratory research.