chapter  14
18 Pages

Experiments as Reforms: Persuasion in the Nation’s Service

In his Reforms as Experiments, Campbell (1969) urged the integration of strong investigative methods with large-scale social interventions that had come on line in Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. His call to bring social psychology’s many gifts to the society at large had been an integral feature of the eld for years (Lewin et al., 1945; Lewin, Heider, & Heider, 1936), but Reforms reinvigorated the challenge to social psychology to become a force for progressive social change by daring its practitioners to evaluate socially relevant interventions carried out in its name. Campbell’s vision, along with Michael Scriven’s (1991, 1997, 2003), began the formalization of the eld of evaluation research, which focuses on the empirical, scientic, controlled assessment of large-scale (and small-scale) social interventions. As almost all social interventions involve the manipulation of beliefs, attitudes, and intentions in the service of behavior change, it is tting to consider both the application of attitude research to contemporary social problems, along with attitude assessment, as any attitude (re)adjustment worth attempting is worth evaluating. The integration of the complementary epistemological orientations of Campbell and Scriven resulted in a movement with the potential to enrich our efforts as responsible citizens and social scientists. This was a clearly a necessary move, which the eld as a whole would do well to emulate. As McGuire (2003) observed, “a Mandarin stance of science for science’s sake, however claimed by the high-table elite, would lose support from other segments of society, including funding agencies” (p. 135). We have seen his prediction come to pass.