Psychology as the Science of Self-Reports and Finger Movements: Whatever Happened to Actual Behavior?

Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen D. Vohs, David C. Funder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1122 Scopus citations


Psychology calls itself the science of behavior, and the American Psychological Association's current “Decade of Behavior” was intended to increase awareness and appreciation of this aspect of the science. Yet some psychological subdisciplines have never directly studied behavior, and studies on behavior are dwindling rapidly in other subdisciplines. We discuss the eclipse of behavior in personality and social psychology, in which direct observation of behavior has been increasingly supplanted by introspective self-reports, hypothetical scenarios, and questionnaire ratings. We advocate a renewed commitment to including direct observation of behavior whenever possible and in at least a healthy minority of research projects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-403
Number of pages8
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Portions of this article were originally published by Roy F. Baumeister and Kathleen D. Vohs in Dialogue, the newsletter for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (incorporated from Division 8 of the American Psychological Association). Preparation of this article was supported in part by National Institute of Health Grant MH 57039 to Roy F. Baumeister, McKnight Land-Grant Professorship funds to Kathleen D. Vohs, and a Visiting Research Fellowship from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, and by National Science Foundation Grant BCS-0642243 to David C. Funder.


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