Reading my Social Psychology (Meyers, 2008, 9th edition) book for my college class, I came upon an interesting fact. Only 15 percent of Ukrainian citizens say they are religious, but during Soviet Communism when religion was suppressed, 70 percent of those polled stated they were religious.
The author used this example while explaining that the hypothesis of an experiment must remain a secret to the participants, lest they try to please the experimenter or even try to displease him. Myers says that the stats on religion I stated above may have been a result of people trying to irritate the regime. I think there were probably multiple reasons for the 70 percent measurement; when people have little and are oppressed they tend to turn to religion.
It brings up some interesting questions about how much “wrong” is done just to “stick it to the man.” A friend of mine referred to the coolness-factor associated with drug use in high school and college and says that legalization may remove some of that and thus some of the problem. He may be right, but I’m not sure it would offset the resultant increase in use do to increased availability.
In any event, I do tend to be suspicious of “soft sciences” such as social psychology, because the dependent variable can be manipulated or interpreted in many ways. Certain political affiliations tend to color the experimenter’s analysis. But I do find the experiments of social psychology fascinating. It’s fun to think of all the reasons that could be attributed to the outcomes of these experiments.