Mind Hacks

My latest Beyond Boundaries column for The Psychologist asks why psychologists don’t immerse themselves in the lives of people they study and whether sociologists think we’re wimps. Plus a bonus question about why strip clubs are so frequently researched.

Sociologists must think we’re wusses. While we’re handing out questionnaires, scanning people in labs or measuring behavioural responses, our society-focused friends wade into the thick of it. One particular technique, called participant observation, involves taking part in the activities of those you want to study or accompanying them in their daily lives. For reasons never quite clear to me, this has never been a popular approach in psychology, although from reading a few of the studies, perhaps you can begin to see why.

Simon Winlow was finding it difficult to study violence in the night-time economy and so decided to get himself a job as a bouncer. His work provides…

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