Capitalizing on the Breadth of Psychological Science

One could argue that psychological science (PS) is defined by certain attitudes and behaviors, fortified by rigorous methods. It’s a scientific frame of mind about behavior. It’s a realm of discourse about behavior, in which the rules of evidence are those of science. PS is not a subject matter, a location, or a diploma.

PS is an attitude of frank curiosity, eagerness to challenge common wisdom, and an effort to create new information within evolving theories about behavior. PS is scientific behaviors-forming and testing hypotheses about behavior, derived from coherent theories. Hypothesis testing is a rule-bound scientific activity, defined by experimental and statistical procedures. The label “APS” adheres to activities that involve theorizing, framing questions, testing hypotheses, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, and applying them to real-life issues.

One can adopt a psychologically scientific posture about any question. PS attitudes are skeptical and behaviors are methodologically sophisticated. Psychological scientists believe that all knowledge is probabilistic. The challenge is to estimate how securely we know.

PS is not an exclusive club to which one gains entrance by scientific lines of research. Anyone can adopt psychologically scientific attitudes and behaviors. PS is not defined by where one works, how one makes a living, who signs one’s paycheck, or even by one’s daily activities. Some PS members produce new information; others consume it for practice and teaching. Openness and inclusion are important to PS: Any educated person has the potential to be a psychological scientist. PS is powerful, because we combine the consumers and the producers within one organization, the APS.

Successful businesses have become more customer focused than ever before; they listen to their customers, because that’ s who pays the bills. Is it so different in PS? The Human Capital Initiative is one successful effort to market PS to funding agencies and Congress. By bundling all of PS in a problem-focused package, we showed how PS research speaks to society’s greatest problems, and what we have to offer toward their solution.

Who are PS’s customers? There are three major constituencies: Funding agencies, the general public, and ourselves. When we ask for governmental and public support, we need to know what our customers want from us. We need to market our services to our customers, educate them about what PS can offer.

We need to educate their questions and concerns, help them to evaluate the value of the scientific information about behavior. In other words, we need to turn policymakers and the citizenry into information-consuming, psychological scientists. By making PS a more inclusive enterprise that reaches out, we can serve all constituencies better, including ourselves.

Observer Vol.9, No.5 September, 1996

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