Module 13 of 17
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3.2 Fundamental versus applied research

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I. Overview of the different types of research in psychology

  • Basic Research: Also known as fundamental or pure research, this type of research aims to increase the understanding of a phenomenon without specific practical applications in mind. It is mainly concerned with expanding knowledge and theories in psychology.
  • Applied Research: This type of research is aimed at solving practical problems and improving real-world outcomes. It involves the application of psychological theories and principles to specific problems or issues in areas such as health, education, and the workplace.
  • Quantitative Research: This type of research uses numerical data and statistical analysis to test hypotheses and answer research questions. It is mainly used to establish cause-and-effect relationships and generalize findings to a larger population.
  • Qualitative Research: This type of research uses non-numerical data such as observation, interviews, and open-ended responses to understand the meaning and experiences of individuals and groups. It is mainly used to explore and understand complex phenomena and provide rich and detailed descriptions.
  • Experimental Research: This type of research uses a controlled environment to manipulate variables and observe the effects on a sample. It allows researchers to establish cause-and-effect relationships and test hypotheses.
  • Correlational Research: This type of research examines the relationship between two or more variables without manipulation. It can only establish association and cannot infer causality.
  • Longitudinal Research: This type of research involves the collection of data over a prolonged period of time, usually several months or years. It allows researchers to study the changes and development of a phenomenon over time.
  • Cross-Sectional Research: This type of research involves the collection of data from different individuals or groups at the same point in time. It allows researchers to compare different populations and identify patterns or trends in the data.

II. Fundamental Research in Psychology

Definition and characteristics of fundamental research

  • Definition: Fundamental research, also known as basic or pure research, is a type of research that aims to increase knowledge and understanding of a phenomenon without specific practical applications in mind. It is mainly concerned with expanding knowledge and theories in psychology.
  • Characteristics:
    • Theoretical in nature: Fundamental research is primarily focused on understanding the underlying principles and mechanisms that govern a phenomenon.
    • Long-term goal: The primary goal of fundamental research is to contribute to the advancement of knowledge, rather than solving an immediate problem or addressing a specific application.
    • Lack of immediate practical application: The findings of fundamental research may not have immediate practical applications, but they may lead to future applied research or technological advancements.
    • Use of scientific method: Fundamental research is typically conducted using the scientific method, which includes designing experiments, collecting data, analyzing results, and drawing conclusions based on the evidence.
    • Open-ended: Fundamental research is often open-ended, meaning that the researcher may not have a specific hypothesis or outcome in mind.
    • Replicable: Fundamental research is typically designed to be replicable, meaning that other researchers should be able to replicate the study and obtain similar results.

Examples of fundamental research in psychology, such as studies on memory and cognition

  • Memory and Cognition:
    • Studies on how memory works, how it is affected by different factors, and how it can be improved.
    • Research on cognitive processes such as perception, attention, problem-solving, and decision-making.
    • Investigation of the neural and physiological mechanisms underlying cognitive functions.
  • Developmental Psychology:
    • Studies on how children and adolescents develop cognitive, emotional, and social skills over time.
    • Investigation of the factors that influence development, such as genetics, environment, and parenting.
    • Research on the origins and development of mental disorders in children and adolescents.
  • Social Psychology:
    • Studies on how individuals interact and influence each other in social groups and settings.
    • Research on the origins and maintenance of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination.
    • Investigation of the cognitive and emotional processes that underlie social behavior.
  • Personality Psychology:
    • Studies on the characteristics and traits that make each individual unique.
    • Research on how personality develops and changes over time.
    • Investigation of the factors that influence personality, such as genetics, environment, and culture.
  • Behavioral Neuroscience:
    • Studies on the neural and physiological mechanisms underlying behavior and mental processes.
    • Research on the relationship between the brain and behavior.
    • Investigation of the neural and physiological basis of mental disorders.

Importance of fundamental research for the advancement of psychological knowledge

  • Theoretical Advancement: Fundamental research contributes to the advancement of psychological knowledge by expanding and refining existing theories and developing new ones. It helps to deepen our understanding of the underlying principles and mechanisms that govern human behavior and mental processes.
  • Empirical Evidence: Fundamental research provides empirical evidence to support or disprove existing theories. It allows researchers to test hypotheses and draw conclusions based on the evidence. This helps to build a stronger and more robust body of knowledge in psychology.
  • New Discoveries: Fundamental research can lead to new discoveries and breakthroughs in psychology. For example, a fundamental research study on memory could reveal new insights into how memory works and how it can be improved.
  • Future Applications: The findings of fundamental research may not have immediate practical applications, but they can lead to future applied research or technological advancements. For example, a fundamental research study on the neural basis of memory could lead to the development of new memory-enhancing technologies.
  • Replicability: Fundamental research is typically designed to be replicable, meaning that other researchers should be able to replicate the study and obtain similar results. This helps to build a strong and reliable body of knowledge in psychology.

Limitations of Fundamental Research in Psychology:

  • Lack of immediate practical application: The findings of fundamental research may not have immediate practical applications, which can make it less relevant to some stakeholders.
  • Long-term goal: The primary goal of fundamental research is to contribute to the advancement of knowledge, rather than solving an immediate problem or addressing a specific application, which can make it less relevant to some stakeholders.
  • High cost: Fundamental research can be expensive, as it often requires complex research design, equipment, and data analysis.
  • Limited generalizability: Because of the high level of experimental control and the use of specific samples, fundamental research findings may not generalize to the broader population.

III. Applied Research in Psychology

Definition and characteristics of applied research

  • Definition: Applied research is a type of research that is aimed at solving practical problems and improving real-world outcomes. It involves the application of psychological theories and principles to specific problems or issues in areas such as health, education, and the workplace.
  • Characteristics:
    • Practical in nature: Applied research is primarily focused on solving practical problems and addressing specific issues.
    • Short-term goal: The primary goal of applied research is to provide solutions to immediate problems and improve real-world outcomes.
    • Specific practical applications: The findings of applied research have immediate practical applications, such as the development of new interventions, programs, or policies.
    • Use of scientific method: Like fundamental research, applied research is typically conducted using the scientific method, which includes designing experiments, collecting data, analyzing results, and drawing conclusions based on the evidence.
    • Specific hypothesis: Applied research often has a specific hypothesis or outcome in mind, unlike fundamental research.
    • Replicable: Applied research is typically designed to be replicable, meaning that other researchers should be able to replicate the study and obtain similar results.

Examples of applied research in psychology, such as studies on job performance and mental health interventions

  • Mental Health:
    • Studies on the effectiveness of different treatments for mental disorders such as therapy, medication, and alternative treatments.
    • Research on the development and implementation of interventions to prevent mental health issues.
    • Investigation of the factors that contribute to mental health disparities and efforts to address them.
  • Education:
    • Studies on the effectiveness of different teaching methods and educational programs.
    • Research on the development of interventions to improve learning outcomes and address learning difficulties.
    • Investigation of the factors that contribute to educational disparities and efforts to address them.
  • Workplace:
    • Studies on the factors that contribute to job satisfaction and employee well-being.
    • Research on the development of interventions to improve job performance and productivity.
    • Investigation of the factors that contribute to workplace stress and efforts to address them.
  • Aging:
    • Studies on the cognitive and physical changes that occur with aging.
    • Research on the development of interventions to improve quality of life for older adults.
    • Investigation of the factors that contribute to age-related disorders and efforts to address them.
  • Forensic Psychology:
    • Studies on the factors that contribute to criminal behavior and efforts to prevent it.
    • Research on the development of interventions to improve the rehabilitation of offenders.
    • Investigation of the psychological factors involved in legal decision-making, such as eyewitness testimony and jury behavior.

Importance of applied research for addressing practical problems and improving real-world outcomes

  • Problem-Solving: Applied research is aimed at solving practical problems and addressing specific issues. The findings of applied research can be used to develop new interventions, programs, or policies that can improve real-world outcomes.
  • Evidence-Based Practice: Applied research provides evidence-based solutions to practical problems. This helps practitioners, policymakers, and decision-makers to make informed decisions based on the best available evidence.
  • Improving Quality of Life: Applied research can be used to improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities. For example, applied research in mental health can lead to the development of new interventions that can improve the mental well-being of individuals and families.
  • Addressing Disparities: Applied research can be used to address disparities in areas such as health, education, and the workplace. For example, applied research in education can be used to identify and address the factors that contribute to educational disparities and improve learning outcomes for disadvantaged students.
  • Replicability: Applied research is typically designed to be replicable, meaning that other researchers should be able to replicate the study and obtain similar results. This helps to ensure that the interventions and programs developed from applied research are effective and can be replicated in different settings.

Limitations of Applied Research in Psychology:

  • Limited scope: Applied research is often focused on solving specific problems or addressing specific issues, which can limit the generalizability of the findings to other areas.
  • Bias towards practicality: The focus on practical solutions and immediate applications can lead to a bias towards studies that have a higher chance of producing actionable results, and away from more exploratory or theoretical research.
  • Lack of theoretical development: Applied research is primarily focused on solving practical problems, which can limit the development of theoretical knowledge and understanding.
  • Limited replicability: The focus on solving specific problems or addressing specific issues can make it difficult to replicate studies in different settings or with different populations.
  • Limited external validity: The focus on solving specific problems or addressing specific issues can make it difficult to generalize findings to other settings or populations.
  • Limited control over the research: Applied research often takes place in naturalistic settings, which can limit the control that the researcher has over the research environment.

IV. Differences and Similarities between Fundamental and Applied Research

Fundamental Research Applied Research
Goals Increase understanding and advance psychological knowledge Solve practical problems and improve real-world outcomes
Methods Use of scientific method to test hypotheses and expand theories Use of scientific method to test hypotheses and provide evidence-based solutions
Outcomes Advancement of theoretical knowledge, new discoveries, and potential future applications Immediate practical applications such as the development of new interventions, programs, or policies
Time Frame Long-term Short-term
Replicability Typically designed to be replicable Typically designed to be replicable
Control over variables High Low
Generalizability of findings Limited Limited
Theoretical Relevance High Low
Practical Relevance Low High
Funding May be difficult to secure funding for fundamental research, as it may not have immediate practical applications. May be easier to secure funding for applied research, as it addresses specific practical problems.
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