How Do Psychology Professors View the Relation Between Scientific Knowledge and Its Applicability and Societal Relevance?

Gijs A. Holleman*, Ignace T.C. Hooge, Chantal Kemner, Roy S. Hessels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

How do researchers in psychology view the relation between scientific knowledge, its applicability, and its societal relevance? Most research on psychological science and its benefits to society is discussed from a bird’s eye view (a meta-scientific perspective), by identifying general trends such as psychology’s dominant focus on lab-based experiments and general descriptive theories. In recent years, several critics have argued that this focus has come at the cost of reduced practical and societal relevance. In this study, we interviewed Dutch psychology professors to gauge their views about the relation between psychological research and its relevance to society. We found that psychology professors engaged in a variety of activities to engage science with society, from work in clinical and applied settings, to consultancy, education, and science communication. However, we found that the role of theory when applying scientific knowledge to practical problems is far from straightforward. While most participants regarded theories as relevant to understanding general contexts of application, psychological theories were seldom directly related to specific applications. We compare and discuss our findings in the light of recent discussions about the lack of applicability and societal relevance of psychological science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-491
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Psychology
Volume158
Issue number6
Early online date28 Mar 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2024

Keywords

  • applicability
  • Basic and applied research
  • science and society
  • societal relevance

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