Science Compendium Lives Again


Motivated by a continuing need to educate the public, other sciences, and Congress about the tangible ways the behavioral sciences have contributed to solving practical and applied problems, the Science Directorate is rejuvenating an effort to create a large and freely accessible compendium of psychology's successes.

Physics research has brought us electrical power, rockets, transistors, and lasers; chemistry research has resulted in paints, pharmaceuticals, and plastics; and biology research has produced vaccines and test tube babies. But what are the payoffs from research in psychology? Over the years, the idea of compiling a Science Compendium (or 'Greatest Hits List') outlining psychology's successes and applications has generated a lot of enthusiasm, but has never come to fruition. In part, this is because progress in the behavioral sciences is not usually marked by single grand discoveries, and, as in all sciences, the route from psychology research to application tends to be complex and indirect. This means that a compendium of successes must be more than a list of single research findings and their applications--it must be organized to reflect the fact that progress is measured more by convergence in our paradigms and bodies of accepted knowledge than by splashy discoveries or inventions. And it must also allow for the inclusion of applications that are typically cumulative and cross-disciplinary.

The Science Directorate's current incarnation of the psychology compendium is organized in just this way. It is structured to access entries by two routes: The first involves identifying areas of progress in specific substantive areas, with accompanying illustrations of practical applications. The following are examples:

1. Cognitive research has allowed us to identify common biases in reasoning. Knowing these biases allows us to inoculate against errors in decision making and risk perception.

2. Learning research (originally with animals) has helped to elucidate how complex responses are built from simple behaviors. This knowledge provides the tools for training animals, serves as the basis of animal models used to test medicines, vaccines, and therapies, and underlies interventions used to teach language, social, and other skills to disabled and special populations.

3. Research in physiological psychology has led to an understanding of ways that behavior affects biological processes. This knowledge has contributed to rehabilitation, stress reduction methods, and behavioral medicine.

4. Attention research has documented the limits of focused concentration. This has enabled us to design more efficient and safer control systems in a variety of settings (e.g., in transportation and the military).

5. Cognitive/social research has demonstrated the importance of personal control beliefs on human functioning. This knowledge has led to therapies for depression, as well as to innovative procedures for hospital and nursing settings that have decreased recovery times and increased longevity.

The second route begins with a specific application and traces its research origins. For example, computer-based training systems used in the military are the result, in part, of research on learning, perception, and cognitive organization.

We need your help in identifying entries for the Compendium. Please send us (a) suggestions of areas with substantive progress and related applications; or (b) histories of the research underlying specific applications, including a description of the application (what it is and who uses it) and annotated citations to the basic, underlying research (or research areas).

Please send all information to:

Science Compendium
APA Science Directorate
750 First St, NE
Washington, DC 20002

mxb.apa@email.apa.org




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