Potential Pitfalls of a More Applied Social Psychology: Review and Recommendations

Melvin M. Mark, Fred B. Bryant

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Abstract

Interest and involvement in applied social psychology have increased dramatically in recent years. A chorus of social psychologists has applauded and encouraged this trend toward a more applied social psychology, claiming that it will promote a variety of improvements including better theory building, the amelioration of social problems, and increased employment and funding opportunities. Although we agree that this enthusiasm is at least partly justified and that applied research is necessary, we argue that inadequate attention has been paid to the potential pitfalls of applied social psychology. Five potential pitfalls are discussed: reduced construct validity; reduced focus on mediating processes; decreased concern for probing the vast array of theoretically important causes of behavior; increased research faddism; and increased incoherence of the discipline. These five pitfalls are problems in any disciplinary study of social behavior, but we believe they are exacerbated as social psychology becomes more applied. We offer some recommendations to help social psychology avoid these pitfalls. Only by seriously attending to the potential pitfalls of a more applied social psychology can these problems be avoided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-253
Number of pages23
Journalbasic and applied social psychology
Volume5
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 1984

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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