Crisis in Social Psychology and Suggestions for Solutions


There seems to be a continuous crisis of different types in social psychology as a science, for which I provide a couple of examples from literature. I find this remarkable as social psychology could be considered to have the potential to help to solve contemporary problems of world’s societies employing advanced knowledge of humans, societies, and cultures (Vaitkus, 1990).

Different facets of crisis in social psychology and suggestions for solutions

For example, Keats (2016) points to a current crisis in the ability to reproduce past social psychology research results. The difficulty in reconstructing scientific findings may also result from missing information, why Wolf, Maarten, Leen, & Gert (2015) criticize the lack of open research practices. Therefore Wolf et al. (2015) promote more transparent peer review initiatives that in their eyes would provide for improved data and methodological detail explanation sharing, which in turn would facilitate the re-performance of research.

Hales (2016) is speaking about a crisis of confidence in social psychology that is caused by research based on weak evidence and as a remedy proposes a plan how errors in future scientific work could be further reduced.

An ongoing methodological crisis that has started in the 1890s was identified in the literature by Mironenko & Sorokin (2015). As a response to the current crisis in psychology, Mironenko & Sorokin (2015) propose to focus increasingly on human beings as an ever changing species rather than a generalizable and stable natural phenomenon. Poli (2014) is estimating the theory of prospection as recently proposed by Seligman, Railton, Baumeister, & Sripada (2013) as a revolutionary shift in psychology insofar as psychology’s conception turns from the past to the future. In prospection theory, rather than the past and stimuli, expectations about the future are considered to be the determining factor shaping human behavior, as Poli (2014) is summarizing.

Maslov (n.d) is seeing a crisis that roots in the weak connection of theoretical and observational knowledge, respectively in the isolated study of different behavioral processes of biological, psychological, and social nature that is lacking the establishment of logically correct links between those processes to the real contemporary social life. Beyond the borders of psychology Osborne, Baughn, & Kriese (2007) are going when feeling the need for increased interdisciplinary understanding between the humanities and the social sciences.

As the economic market, the scientific market is difficult to predict, why a diverse portfolio of research programs would be the logical consequence as Pedersen & Hendricks (2014) argue. To bet on high expectation scientific research only risks to limit the possibility of unexpected breakthroughs and to undermine the continuation of a substantial evidence base (Pedersen & Hendricks, 2014).


As Dafermos (2015) states, the continuing crisis in social psychology as a scientific field has to do with the need to further elaborate methods and frameworks to capture and analyze the complexity and sometimes contradictory reality of human behavior in the real social life.



Dafermos, M. (2015). Rethinking the crisis in social psychology: A dialectical perspective. Social And Personality Psychology Compass, 9(8), 394-405. doi:10.1111/spc3.12187

Hales, A. H. (2016). Does the conclusion follow from the evidence? Recommendations for improving research. Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology, 66(Rigorous and Replicable Methods in Social Psychology), 39-46. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2015.09.011

KEATS, J. (2016). The Replication Crisis. Discover, 37(7), 10.

Maslov, K. (n.d). Environment, Behaviour and Communication: The Definitive Answer or the Continuation of a Crisis?. Culture & Psychology, 16(2), 243-251.

Mironenko, I., & Sorokin, P. (2015). Culture in psychology: Perennial problems and the contemporary methodological crisis. Psychology In Russia : State Of Art, Vol 8, Iss 4, Pp 35-45 (2015), (4), 35. doi:10.11621/pir.2015.0403

Osborne, R., Baughn, N., & Kriese, P. (2007). Bridging the Gap Between the Humanities and the Social Sciences: A Crisis Resolved. International Journal Of The Humanities, 5(1), 61-65.

Pedersen, D. )., & Hendricks, V. ). (2014). Science Bubbles. Philosophy And Technology, 27(4), 503-518. doi:10.1007/s13347-013-0142-7

Poli, R. (2014). Anticipation: A New Thread for the Human and Social Sciences?. Cadmus, 2(3), 23-36.


Wolf, V., Maarten, V., Leen, D., & Gert, S. (2015). Are We Wasting a Good Crisis? The Availability of Psychological Research Data after the Storm. Collabra, Vol 1, Iss 1 (2015), (1), doi:10.1525/collabra.13

  • Maybe I put it to simple, but just like politician, economics, bishops…scientists are also ‘just’ humans. If we want humans (layman) to trust scientific reports and research again, I believe it would be wise to step down from the self-created ‘thrones’ and admit that social psychology can’t be boxed in, generalized. I agree with the approach to amplify the uniqueness of humans, of human behavior, of the environment humans live in, ….
    About your remark Mathias at Opher: yes, there are economics just ‘in it’ for profit. However, without multinationals investing in research..well, there wouldn’t be much research at all. Most of us like to complain, but aren’t willing to pay more for the necessary research, scientific improvements, medical improvements, ….
    And I don’t believe all of us are more interested in destruction, that is again a to generalized perspective for me.

    • Hi Patty.
      I appreciate your input, Patty! Thank you for the discussion. And I’m sorry for being quite strict (and long in my response). I’m aware of how difficult it is to improve. People by nature have everything to be good. If they listen to their inner values, they are good. In social situations, we just make often decisions that are sub-optimal. We can intellectually identify the need for improvement; therefore it would also be possible to act on it. I admit how hard this is to do. However, I don’t want to excuse anymore all human flaws, active and passive ignorance, cheating, and brutalities, etc. I am convinced we can do better (I could already change some of my behavior to the more positive, although I was already “just human” before). Therefore, no excuse!
      The taxes from many small and medium organizations would sum up probably to more taxes than the limited taxes from the powerful multinationals. If wealth and power weren’t concentrated in the 1% percent of the global elite, it wouldn’t mean that there is no power to organize for quality research. It may just be less conflicting with one-sided interests from few dictating corporations.
      I wholeheartedly agree with you, blaming the big companies shouldn’t do wrong to the individuals who individually often would take different decisions than the organization. People are naturally good, or bad according to their decisions. People are not interested in destruction, I agree with you, but they often tolerate it, and that is in minimum unnecessary! Because of anonymity, the desire to conform, and sometimes (we have to say it) even greed, employees and managers don’t stand up for their good personal values. That is my point. I want to do more, to resist conformity against personal enrichment and convenience, and I want to target a higher ideal (peaceful and just) as we currently accept, not just humanly imperfect world (although there is a lot of good, still too often greedy, unjust, and violent).
      Looking forward to challenging each other soon again. All the best, Mathias

      • Yes, I too don’t like the excuse we seem to start using more often ‘Don’t blame me, I am only human’…And all that talk, debate, discuss…that doesn’t change anything indeed!
        I just told someone yesterday, I don’t believe people are born depressed, violent, etc (although I think sociopaths are)..hence, most of them become this, because what is inflicted upon them…I too believe we have by nature everything to be good.
        Thank you so much for, again, taking the time to respond. No apology necessary for the length or the strictness 😉
        Kind regards,