Anderson, C.A., Lindsay, J.J., & Bushman, B.J. (1999).

Research in the Psychological Laboratory: Truth or Triviality?

Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 3-9.


This article examines the truism that studies from psychological laboratories are low in external validity. Past rational (e.g., Mook, 1983) and empirical (e.g., Anderson & Bushman, 1997) explorations of this truism found little support for it. A broader empirical approach was presented; correspondence between lab and field was compared across a broad range of domains including aggression, helping, leadership style, social loafing, self-efficacy, depression, and memory, among others. Correspondence between lab- and field-based effect sizes of conceptually similar independent and dependent variables was considerable. In brief, the psychological laboratory has generally produced psychological truths, rather than trivialities. These same data suggest that a companion truism about field studies in psychology--that they are generally low on internal validity--is also false.

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Copyright 1998 by Craig A. Anderson