Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Ralph L. Rosnow

Ralph L. Rosnow

Since retiring from the riveting poignancy of academic life, I have kept busy reading, writing, and ruminating. Thanks to SPN, I am able to provide free, unfettered access to scanned copies of several books for which my coauthors and I have received the rights from the publishers. Clicking on the Files tab above, then choosing a highlighted title and clicking on View/Download, provides open access to the following 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 (also coauthored with Bob); 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 Fine); and Paradigms in Transition: The Methodology of Social Inquiry. Two of these books are also openly available in Harvard's DASH repository (for links, click on the Publications tab above, then on the title Essentials of Behavioral Research or the title People Studying People).

For many years, I have 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. 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 and social psychological hypotheses and questions. It has also taught me to be mindful of the contexts in which empirical observations are situated and of sociotemporal factors that are not static, but in continual flux. In the case of experimental artifacts, as William McGuire noted, today's artifact may become tomorrow's independent variable; the same conditions discounted as nuisance variables at one time may later become variables of interest in their own right.

Methodological, statistical, and ethical practices and ingrained habits when generating, describing, exploring, and drawing conclusions from data are also long-time interests of mine. For a great many years, I have been interested in judgment biases. My earliest study in this vein was conducted when I was a freshly minted Ph.D. working in Washington, DC. The study had to do with an apparatus that I helped to develop to record continuous Likert-type responses (called it CAVIAR, for continuous and variable intensity automated responses), inspired by the Lazarsfeld-Stanton Program Analyzer, which recorded continuous dichotomous responses (this was back in the days before computers were on every researcher's desk). My study focused on the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon presidential debates, but it wasn't until 1965 that I eventually published the results when I was an assistant professor at Boston University teaching in an exciting new master's degree program in communication research, developed and chaired by Ed Robinson. I had also become interested in volunteer bias, and I believe it was Gordon 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 an important program of research on experimenter effects in the subject-experimenter interaction. Of greater interest to me was that he was also interested in the volunteer subject. I asked him if he would be interested in collaborating on an empirical study of volunteer subjects that I had begun at BU, and to my good fortune he accepted. Additional work by Bob Lana on pretest sensitization, Martin Orne on demand characteristics and the "good subject effect," Milton Rosenberg on evaluation apprehension, and Bill McGuire on subjects' suspiciousness of experimenters' intentions was also percolating, and, in 1969, that research and papers by E. G. Boring and Donald Campbell were brought together in our edited book, Artifact in Behavioral Research. It was followed later by our book length monograph on the volunteer subject and a paperback primer on research methods (which evolved into our graduate- and undergraduate-level methods texts). Since that time, Bob Rosenthal and I have collaborated on articles, chapters, and a baker's dozen additional books on research methods and statistical data analysis.

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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