College Students vs. The World

For decades, social psychologists have collected data primarily from college undergraduates and, recently, from haphazard samples of adults. Yet researchers have routinely presumed that thusly observed treatment effects characterize “people” in general. Tests of seven highly-cited social psychological phenomena (two involving opinion change resulting from social influence and five involving the use of heuristics in social judgments) using data collected from randomly sampled, representative groups of American adults documented generalizability of the six phenomena that have been replicated previously with undergraduate samples.

Yeager, Krosnick, Visser, Holbrook, & Tahk

Insofar as academic IO psychologists often rely on college/university samples for lab experiments, this article is encouraging. The college sophomore is different from the rest of the world, but maybe not so different that generalizability is hopeless. – Ben

Read Moderation of Classic Social Psychological Effects by Demographics in a Nationally Representative Sample: New Opportunities for Theoretical Advancement (Pre-Print) in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition.

About the Author

Ben Butina, Ph.D.
Dr. Butina, who hosts the Department 12 Podcast, is an industrial-organizational psychologist with interests in training, leadership development, talent management, and positive psychology in the workplace.

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