chapter  1
Applied Psychology: Introduction and Background
Pages 22

The distinction between basic or ‘pure’ psychology and applied psychology reflects the attempts of psychologists to advance their subject both as a science and as a means of promoting human welfare. Basic psychology is primarily a research activity, mainly carried out in academic institutions, which aims to accumulate reliable and meaningful behavioural data and to devise and test theoretical explanations of why people (and, where appropriate, animals) think and feel and act as they do. The results and conclusions derived from basic psychological research form the backbone of the curricula adopted by universities and colleges providing first degree courses in psychology. Applied psychology comprises several areas of professional practice, for example, clinical psychology, educational psychology and occupational/industrial psychology. It is also a research activity, although the orientation and concerns of research in applied psychology are likely to be rather different from those of research in basic psychology. As Gale indicates in Chapter 18, basic psychological research is often described as being ‘theory driven*, while applied psychological research is held to be ‘problem* or ‘need* driven (Middleton and Edwards, 1985). Within applied psychology a distinction has also been made between ‘applied’ and ‘applicable’ research (Belbin, 1979). The former is mainly oriented toward the accumulation of knowledge within a particular area of applied psychology; an example would be the investigation of the relative importance of the various factors affecting work satisfaction. The latter is expressly directed at the solution of a particular practical problem; for instance the development of procedures to evaluate patient care and management in a psychiatric hospital (Watts, 1984) or to reduce labour turnover among guards on underground trains (Belbin, 1979). An important development in applied psychology in recent years, especially in the United States, has been the growth of policy oriented research, which aims to produce a more effective collaboration between psychologists and other social scientists on the one hand, and elected and appointed public decision making bodies on the other (Fischoff, 1990; Gallagher, 1990). Psychologists can attempt to influence policy at a conceptual level, by turning research findings into policy issues, by

suggesting ways of thinking about policy initiatives, and by creating a common language in which to discuss them. In addition to policy formulation, psychologists and social scientists can contribute to policy evaluation by devising methods to determine the effectiveness of policy initiatives which have already been implemented (see Rossi and Wright, 1984, for a review of evaluation research).