Not by Behaviour Alone: In Defence of Self-Reports and ‘Finger Movements’


  • Jolanda Jetten
  • S. Alexander Haslam


We agree that it is important to study behaviour in psychology but warn against putting behaviour on a scientific pedestal. We argue that this would be problematic for at least three reasons. First, behaviour should not be seen as disconnected from thoughts and feelings; moreover, quarantin- ing different domains of responses does not help to explain human psychology comprehensively. Second, because behaviour hardly ever speaks for itself, it is essential to gather other responses from participants (including self-reports and “finger movement responses”) to understand what their behaviour really means. Finally, and most importantly, we observe that the main response

to the crisis in social psychology has consisted of calls to change our empirical practices. Here this call takes the form of arguing for studying one particular dependent variable: behaviour. Even though we agree that there is value in measuring behaviour, promoting such practices is not go- ing to be a silver bullet that overcomes the key challenges that social psychology as a discipline

is currently facing. To do that, a more fruitful avenue would be to focus on the theory that needs to underpin and inform that empirical work. Indeed, without a proper theoretical framework to guide the study of behaviour, developing a “science of behaviour” is in our view rather futile.