Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Ralph L. Rosnow

Ralph L. Rosnow

I have long been interested in how assumptions, inferences, generalizations, and the like often become habits of thought and justifications for convictions and conduct, no matter how distorted or irrational they may come to seem. Over the years, my research on attitude and impression formation, persuasion and opinion change, rumor and gossip, interpersonal acumen, and sources of unintended factors known as artifacts has also been a constant reminder of the difficulties and subtleties of applying the scientific method to behavioral studies. It has taught me to be mindful of the contexts in which particular empirical observations are situated and of sociotemporal factors that are not static, but in continual flux. In the case of artifacts, as William J. McGuire put it, today's artifact may become tomorrow's independent variable; the same conditions discounted as nuisance variables at one time may later be exploited as variables of interest in their own right.

Methodological, statistical, and ethical practices when generating, describing, exploring, and drawing conclusions and generalizations from data are long-time interests. My earliest study of judgment biases was conducted when I was a freshly minted Ph.D. working in Washington, DC. The study had to do with testing an apparatus that I helped to develop to record continuous Likert-type responses. I was inspired by the Lazarsfeld-Stanton Program Analyzer, which recorded continuous dichotomous responses (this was back in the days before personal computers were on every researcher's desk). Focused on the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon presidential debates, the study explored some biasing effects in evaluations of the debate. I wrote up the results when I came to Boston University in 1967 to teach in a new master's degree program in communication research. I had also become interested in volunteer bias, and I believe it was Gordon W. RusselI who introduced Bob Rosenthal and me to one another at an EPA meeting in Atlantic City. Bob, then a Lecturer on Clinical Psychology at Harvard, had started a program of research on experimenter effects in the subject-experimenter interaction, but of particular interest to me was that he was also writing a paper on the volunteer subject. I asked him if he might be interested in collaborating on an empirical study of volunteer subjects, and to my good fortune he accepted. Additional work on artifacts was percolating in other labs and settings, and in 1969 some of that research and thought was brought together in our edited book, Artifact in Behavioral Research, followed several years later by our book length monograph on the volunteer subject and a paperback primer on research methods (which eventually evolved into our graduate- and undergraduate-level texts). Since then, my old friend and I have collaborated on articles, chapters, and a baker's dozen additional books in the area of research methodology and data analysis.

Since retiring from the riveting poignancy of academic life, I have kept busy reading, writing, and ruminating. I have been exploring ways of providing free open access to several books for which my coauthors and I have received rights from the publishers. By clicking on FILES tab above, then choosing a highlighted title, and clicking on View/Download, it is possible to freely access full-text PDF copies of five books: Essentials of Behavioral Research: Methods and Data Analysis (3rd edition, coauthored with Bob Rosenthal); People Studying People: Artifacts and Ethics in Behavioral Research (coauthored with Bob Rosenthal); Writing Papers in Psychology: Proposals, Research Papers, Literature Reviews, Poster Presentations and Concise Reports (9th edition, coauthored with Mimi Rosnow); Rumor and Gossip: The Social Psychology of Hearsay (coauthored with Gary Alan Fine); and Paradigms in Transition: The Methodology of Social Inquiry. (By clicking on PUBLICATIONS tab above, then on the title People Studying People or on the title Essentials of Behavioral Research, these two books can also be viewed in Harvard's DASH repository.)

Primary Interests:

  • Applied Social Psychology
  • Attitudes and Beliefs
  • Interpersonal Processes
  • Research Methods, Assessment
  • Social Cognition

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Journal Articles:

Other Publications:

  • 2001. Rumor and gossip in interpersonal interaction and beyond: A social exchange perspective (R. L. Rosnow). In R. M. Kolwalski (Ed.), Behaving badly: Aversive behaviors in interpersonal relationships (pp. 203-232). American Psychological Association Press.
  • 2013. Ethics and quantitative methods (R. L. Rosnow & R. Rosenthal). In T. D. Little (Ed.), Oxford handbook of quantitative methods (Vol. 1, pp. 31-53). Oxford University Press.

Courses Taught:

Ralph L. Rosnow
Radnor, Pennsylvania 19087
United States

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