Psychological research has been applied to a wide variety of practical issues, ranging from energy conservation to Crime prevention. The translation from research to application is not easy or automatic, however. Although some psychological research has immediate applications, other research has no apparent application at all. To understand the links between research and application, it is useful to distinguish two approaches to psychological research: basic research and applied re- search. The purpose of basic research is to advance our understanding of behavior, without any immediate concern for the uses of this understanding.
The hesitating-professor study is an example of basic research. Ir adds to our understanding of human thinking and language, bur it does not have any obvious application to the solution of personal or social problems. Although basic research seldom has any direct application, in the long run it may prove to be of great practical importance. For example, basic research on helping behaviors such as the Good Samaritan study, may eventually lead to ways of encouraging people to be more responsive to the plight of others. Whether or not basic research proves to have a specific practical application, it is needed to expand our understanding of behavior and mental processes.
Psychological Research Helps To Solve Problems
Applied research is research that attempts, from the outset, to help solve a practical problem. For example, applied research is conducted in order to design airplane instrument panels to suit human perceptual and motor abilities, and in order to design effective ad campaigns to encourage the use ofcondoms to prevent the spread of AIDS. Psychologists also design studies that have direct bearing on court cases or on decisions about government programs. For example, for many years newspapers listed advertisements for job openings in two separate cat- egories: jobs supposedly of interest to men and jobs supposedly of interest to women. Sandra Bem and Daryl Bem (1973) conducted experiments that demon- strated that this practice discouraged women from applying for jobs that were traditionally held by men.
Their findings played an important role in determining the court decision that listing “men’s” and “women’s” jobs separately was a discriminatory practice that had to be eliminated. The line dividing “basic” from “applied” research is sometimes a blurry one because the same research can be directed at both advancing general knowledge and solving a practical problem. For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has sponsored studies of people’s psychological reactions to weightlessness. NASA has funded this research because of its immediate applicability to such goals as preventing space-sickness among astronauts. But the re- search has also advanced our broader understanding of how the human senses work, on Earth as well as in outer space.