What is Applied Psychology?

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Applied psychology is a field that focuses on putting practical research into action. Applied psychology focuses on the implementation of real-world results over abstract theories and lab-based experiments. This discipline validates psychology theories in order to achieve tangible results.

Basic vs. Applied Psychology

Basic psychology is what most people are familiar with because this discipline is pure research. That is, these psychologists seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge and experimentation. Almost all of academic psychology is focused on formulating or challenging hypothesis, conducting controlled experiments and analyzing the results. A regular psychologist may study how peer pressure influences attitudes and behaviors by surveying or testing study participants, but an applied psychologist will take the results in order to apply the findings. For example, they may consult with public policy makers and school districts to implement a community-based program that teaches children about peer pressure. A regular educational psychologist will conduct tests of how to improve school systems, but an applied educational psychologist will implement innovative programs to achieve this goal, according to the American Psychology Association.

Practical Skills and Knowledge

Applied psychologists must have excellent knowledge of scientific research methods and techniques. They must know how to formulate hypotheses, create testable objectives, develop experimental design and appropriately select subjects. They must all also know how to collect, analyze and interpret findings. Applied psychologists must have public speaking skills because they often must often persuade and educate others. They must often explain to audiences why their findings are relevant and why decision makers should follow their counsel. Strong technical writing skills are necessary in order to create user-friendly reports and proposals. Applied psychologists also must know how to elicit and monitor honest feedback in order to evaluate programs. Understanding descriptive and inferential statistics that are commonly used in the behavioral and social sciences will help them to organize data, measure variability, establish correlations and estimate probability.

Applied Psychology Example

Social psychology is defined as the scientific field that analyzes the nature and causes of individual behavior and thought within social situations. This includes concepts like attraction, altruism, conflict, prejudice and social deviation. Applied social psychology is defined as the systematic application of theories, principles and techniques to ameliorate social problems by changing cognition and behaviors. For example, an applied social psychologist may focus on the social problem of traffic safety. They would work with researchers to examine which specific factors correlate with high traffic accident rates. First, they would highlight the fact that most traffic accidents are related to traffic violations like speeding and not driver errors, such as the failure to yield. They might focus on which conscious decision making factors motivate drivers to break the speed limits. If social normal and perception was important, they may recommend a public awareness campaign to change attitudes.

Sample Applied Psychology Program

Those who want to become applied psychologists can study almost any major field of psychology. For example, an applied psychology program with a concentration in industrial-organizational psychology will focus on developing the core knowledge and analytical skills needed to address practical problems that matter to local businesses. This program prepares students to become real-life problem solvers in various industries. Students will learn about personnel management, human resource management, organizational behavior and organizational development. Graduates will go on to consult with companies and help them efficiently recruit, develop and organize their HR policies, systems and practices.

Related Resource: 49 Most Affordable Small Colleges for a Master’s Degree in Psychology 2016

Applied psychologists may also find work as health, sports, forensic and human factors psychologists.