What qualifies as applied psychology?
Date: 13 Sep 2014 01:02
Number of posts: 3
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Answer this: who cares about your research?
A. Pretty much just me, my grad students, and a few other people in my field.
B. The military, federal funding agencies, "hard scientists", and university administrators.
If B., then you do applied research.
In all seriousness, though, I think it's a vague term. In a way, most psychologists do applied, or at least applicable, research. The main distinction, if someone really wants to make a strong one, is whether you care more about basic questions such as "Why does this happen?" versus very applied questions like "How can I make this happen more or less often?", where the second question has no "Why?" component. In truth, most applied researchers do care about the why? as well, but applied research is done to answer a How qustion more than a Why question. I think the researchers who do the best basic OR applied research also have a mind and do some work at the other extreme. Those who only do basic work find no one cares about their work, and those who only do 100% applied work miss out on a lot of important stuff, even if they do find ways to improve or reduce whatever they're dealing with.
Another way to think about it is that applied research is problem focused, whereas basic research is question focused. The applied/problem side asks questions, but they are problem questions. The applied version of a question might be"How can I prevent teens from starting to smoke?" whereas the basic version is "Why do teens start smoking?" On the surface, they might be largely the same, and in truth the answer to either question might also answer the other, but they are not the same if you take a firm basic vs. applied distinction. Again, most researchers are somewhere on a continuum rather than being one or the other, and for some it just differs by research project (i.e., some projects are basic-focused and others are applied-focus).
One way to answer this question is to look at what is published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (JAP). That journal gets a "bajillion" submissions a year and has an insanely high rejection rate. In terms of topics, the articles are all over the place: I/O, business, HR, health psych, health promotion, psych and law, policy research, ed psych, decision-making, some clinical, etc. Basically, it is about whether the research is about using basic science in a "real world" context or not. If you are wondering about whether you should apply for a job that is listed as "applied psychology" you might ask yourself if you would submit your work to JAP.