Blog due 11/03/2012

Gap Between Psychology Theories and their Application?

This week, my blog is going to discuss whether there is a gap between the theories psychology puts forward as scientifically significant and there use in practical life. For example, Cognitive Psychologists have huge amounts of research about how memory works but are these theories put to use in education to help children with their times tables or spelling? Also, are Developmental theories used to ensure that children are given all the possible tools to grow up in the ‘best’ way possible?

There are many theories about why some people often exceed the recommended maximum amount of alcohol they drink. Recently, a study has proposed that two-thirds of a sample of 18-25 year olds could not accurately identify the correct amount of units of alcohol in their regular drinks ( This information could be hugely beneficial as it means that many people may not even realised they may be drinking too much. However, the information is no use if nothing is going to be done about it (such as a campaign about the correct amounts of units).

Clinical theories should be available to everyone in an attempt to prevent some disorders rather than just giving people treatments after they have been diagnosed. According to this report soldiers are not recieving the help they need until long after they are diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. With this disorder it is important to catch it early ( and so with more methods put in place to prevent it rather than treat it, there could be fewer people suffering as much. This later diagnosis could also mean that there are more people out there who are suffering but have not yet been identified so may not receive help in time.

But is the gap really that big? Is the best being done with the resources available?

Psychology is a huge field of research with few limits as every aspect of human behaviour is under inspection in some parts of psychology ( With such a huge area of expertise there are bound to be a few cases in which the findings are not immediately, directly applied to real life. However, with the most crucial of findings, changes are seen quickly and often other findings find their place in society after a while.

Dating sites (, at least, seem to be taking psychological theories ‘to heart’…

Psychology, as a science, should benefit everyone, which means we must attempt to find it a place in every day life.


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14 thoughts on “Blog due 11/03/2012

  1. I think the most serious and annoying gap between research theories and practical applications is in education. Educational research could help children learn better and therefore help them understand concepts easier. For example the Sutton Trust (2011) published an article of how some of the most well known teaching strategies are some of the least effective ways to boost performance. 75% of teachers think that reducing class size is a top priority to improve performance, (Sutton Trust, 2011) when in fact performance can be improved much better through SAFMEDS (Say All Fast a Minute Every Day Shuffled) cards which helps improve fluency of a subject (Chapman, Ewing & Mozzoni, 2005). Reducing class size has limited effects until the class size is reduced to between 15-20 children. The fact that SAFMEDS are only used for children with traumatic brain injuries and children that are under-developing is the annoying gap between research and education, and I feel must be rectified immediately.

    Sutton Trust. (2011). Smaller classes, uniforms, and primary homework among the least effective ways of boosting school performance. Retrieved from
    Chapman, S. S., Ewing, C. B., & Mozzini, M. P. (2005). Precision teaching and fluency training across cognitive, physical, and academic tasks in children with traumatic brain injury: a multiple baseline study. Behavioural Interventions, 20(1), 37-49. doi: 10.1002/bin.168

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  3. I would just like to make a few points, firstly the study that proposed two-thirds of a sample of 18-25 year olds could not accurately identify the correct amount of units of alcohol in their regular drinks. I’m sorry but how many 18-25 year olds do you know that are aware of this information. Adults go out to have a good time with friends, not count the units of alcohol. Personally for this information to be beneficial the land lords, club owners and bar staff should be better educated on what they are serving and have notices around the establishments informing their patrons of what units of alcohol are being served and what is deemed as an appropriate amount -so anyone who is curious enough of what they are drinking can see and read it.

    From first-hand experience, this piece of information is inaccurate, soldiers serving on the front line are offered immediate counseling, prior to home leave, it is the soldiers decision if they require this help or not. If a soldier refuses the help, which some do as they see counseling as a weakness, then delayed diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder is the fault of the individual not the forces. Maybe they should be forced into receiving this treatment, but when they start doing this, then again some suffers will still go undetected because the work load is to great. It’s a very fine line between the truth and what is reported. So many inaccuracies are out there, to confuse and diminish much needed work on certain areas. The one above on alcohol is ridicules, the money spent on doing that research, which anyone could have come up with off the top of their head and been right, would have better been used on practical applications in education. I agree with the above comment, that the most serious and annoying gap between research theories and practical applications is in education. Wasted money goes on pointless research like the above one and much needed research is left to simmer on a back burner. Maybe if we educate the children better, they wouldn’t grow up to become binge drinkers as then they should be aware on what is deemed acceptable alcohol limits. Phew that was a rant and a half. Overall good blog, enjoyed reading and commenting on it.

  4. I definitely feel that there is a gap between psychological research and its applications into the real world. For example, my research project is studying how psychological research can be adapted into education as psucd3 points out too, there is little to no input of psychological research put into education. For example, we’re studying the testing effect which is that with regular testing, you can learn more than the same time studying (Roediger III & Butler). A simple concept yes, but one that hasn’t even been tested in a pseudo classroom properly and thus this is what we’re trying to do. When it comes to psychological research being available to everyone, I don’t think the issue is that it’s not, because we can all search google scholar etc, the issue is that it’s not simplified to everyone can understand it and use it, it unfortunately seems to be written for the benefit of other psychologists. If this information however was made more accessible, more concisely written and also for example told in conferences to education/social departments for example, then I feel this would make a vast amount of difference.

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  6. I understand the point you are making when you say that there is too much of a gap between the research findings and the application to real life, however, it can also be dangerous to apply these findings too readily. To explain this, I will use the example of protecting children from bacteria, dirt or any other infection. The following article states that although there is a lot of research showing that we need to keep our children healthy, we may be being too cautious and too careful. The point made is that we need to let our children put dirty things in their mouths and not be too cautious, because we are letting them ‘stimulate their immune system’.
    The article explains that ‘studies have found that children who grew up on farms exposed to animals and plants had fewer allergies than those who did not. And a 2003 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that children raised with dogs and cats have a significantly reduced risk of developing allergies up to 50 percent in some cases’.
    Here is another website advising parents that being so specifically clean when it comes to their children is not always best
    To conclude, if we were to apply all the health instructions based on research findings to real life, we would, in many cases, be doing more harm than good and therefore it is beneficial to be cautious about applying research findings.

  7. I agree that there is sometimes a gap between research and its application; this is particularly true for education Groth & Bergner (2007). Kennedy (1997) highlighted four major hurdles between education research and its application into practise which were: concerns about the authoritativeness of the research, relevance to practise, accessibility and the nature of schools being un-beneficial to implementation of interventions in research. This is a great shame as research developed interventions can prove successful ie. Fit ‘n’ Fun Dudes (Hardman, Horne & Lowe, 2009). However you also suggest that clinical research should also be freely available to everyone. This may be detrimental as it may increase self-diagnosis. This kind of behaviour can already be witnessed on the internet and indeed can cause detrimental effects to those who attempt it (Christensen & Griffiths, 2000).


    Christensen, H. & Griffiths, K. (2000). The internet and mental health literacy. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 34(6), 975-979.

    Groth, R.E. & Bergner, J.A. (2007). Teachers perspectives on mathematics education research reports. Teacher and Teacher Education, 23, 809-825.

    Hardman, C.A., Horne, P.J., & Lowe, C.F. (2009. A home-based intervention to increase physical activity in girls: the fit ’n’ fun dudes programme. Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness, 7(1), 1-8.

    Kennedy, M.M. (1997). The connection between research and practise. Educational Researcher, 26(7), 4-12.

    Hardman, C.A., Horne, P.J., & Lowe, C.F. (2009. A home-based intervention to increase physical activity in girls: the fit ’n’ fun dudes programme. Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness, 7(1), 1-8.
    Kennedy, M.M. (1997). The connection between research and practise. Educational Researcher, 26(7), 4-12.

  8. I think the problem with some psychological theories is that they have no practical applications take for example this study ( what these researchers were able to show was that they had trained pigeons to tell the difference between paintings done my Monet and painting by Picasso. Whilst this is impressive, it has no real use. I would like to see the introduction of a relevance committee, there function would be similar to an ethics committee, except rather than having to show your study poses no harm to the participants, you would have to show that your study will benefit society.

    Great blog as always.

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  11. I think you’ve raised a brilliant issue here, however I disagree with your comment “the information is no use if nothing is going to be done about it” regarding the findings about knowledge of alcohol units. The information is still useful. The problem is the information isn’t being used, and that is a great shame – however this is a very complicated issue as it’s often not the researchers themselves who are in a position to use this information.
    Behavioural interventions and campaigns are often dependent on funding – which can come from private organisations or the government. It is not the fault of the researchers if neither of these decide to put their research to good use – after all the chances are the researchers job is just to research, it would be a lot of responsibility to then ask them to put all the research in place.
    So I agree with you completely that there is a big issue, but I would argue that most psychologists are trying to get their research placed in everyday life (who wouldn’t?) but that can’t really happen without funding or publicity, which often isn’t down to the researcher themselves. Therefore potentially this blog/opinion in general should be directed at the government and funding organisations, as in my opinion this a problem with them, not with psychologists or psychology itself – as in most cases psychologists do try and put their research to use.

  12. You bring to light an interesting concept as to whether all the time, money and effort of research although having a positive impact in the psychological world, are there results being put to good use ? The alcohol example truly draws in the student audience in this view as am sure many of the readers have experienced those nights when they cannot recall how many drinks they had.
    After considering all aspects I agree with you on the fact there is too much area to cover and that not all of it can be applied to real life situations. Just because it cannot be directly applied it does not restrict the possibilities that that research could encourage further research in that area to be applied to daily life. Therefore it could be suggested that not all research can be applied as some is required to provide a stepping stone for other research to be applicable and allow supporting evidence.
    Overall I feel it is noteworthy that research is beneficial to both society and the field allowing research to be appreciated on both levels both for its scientific aspect and for its application to society. All in all bringing both the science and the humanity together within research.

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