Where Are the Non-Traditional Applied Areas of Psychology in Introductory Psychology Textbooks?
Lucas, Jennifer L., Raley, Amber B., Washington, Christi, Blazek, Melissa A., North American Journal of Psychology
Griggs and colleagues (1994, 1999) found that non-traditional applied areas of psychology have not been adequately represented in introductory psychology textbooks. The purpose of this research was to update and expand the work done by Griggs and colleagues by using current introductory psychology textbooks (N = 57) to examine the amount of content that focused on non-traditional applied psychological areas and including additional non-traditional applied areas that Griggs and colleagues did not use. The second purpose was to compare the representation of the nine non-traditional applied areas to more traditional applied areas. We found that the combined amount of non-traditional applied psychology content makes up only 1.82% of introductory psychology textbooks and each individual subfield makes up only .05% to .75% of the introductory psychology textbooks' content. We also found that the traditional applied areas are receiving much more attention in textbooks in comparison to the non-traditional areas. These findings confirm previous research and this research gives new specific information about nine non-traditional applied areas of psychology.
Introductory psychology courses are important because they introduce the scope and relevance of the field of psychology and the various subfields (Buskist, Miller, Ecott, & Critchfield, 1999). Many of those subfields are applied psychology, which can be defined as using psychological knowledge and methods to solve real-world problems (Rathus, 2000). The largest subfields of applied psychology are clinical, counseling, and health psychology, which receive more attention, but there are other non-traditional applied areas that receive little attention. These include advertising, community, educational, engineering, forensic, human factors, industrial-organizational, school, and sport psychology. Unfortunately, too many introductory psychology students are not exposed to these non-traditional applied areas because introductory textbooks are not including much, if any, information about these subfields.
Griggs and Marek (2001) found a standard sequence of theoretical topics in introductory psychology textbooks. The textbooks tend to begin with introductory material and research methods, biological processes (e.g., biopsychology, sensation-perception, and consciousness), development, learning and cognitive processes (e.g., learning, memory, thought-language, and intelligence), emotion-motivation, clinical and health psychology (e.g., personality, disorders, therapies, and health), and social psychology. Introductory psychology courses tend to be very similar, with most being based on the chosen textbook, which often leads to the non-traditional applied areas not being covered or being briefly covered (Miller & Gentile, 1998). Griggs, Jackson, and Napolitano (1994) and Griggs, Jackson, Christopher, and Marek (1999) found that non-traditional applied psychology, as a whole, represents about 2% (with rounding) of the content of introductory psychology textbooks. However, it should be noted that they defined non-traditional applied psychology using only two areas: Industrial-organizational and consumer psychology. For their 1994 study they examined 11 brief introductory psychology textbooks available in 1991 and in their 1999 study they examined 31 full-length introductory psychology textbooks published from 1995 to 1997. Brief introductory psychology textbooks are shorter versions of the full-length textbooks. Maynard, Geberth, and Joseph (2002) pointed out that non-traditional applied psychology areas, if covered, are often marginalized by being placed in the end of the textbooks or in appendices.
The purpose of the current research was to update and extend the work done by Griggs et al. (1994, 1999). They looked at non-traditional applied psychology as a whole and only used two non-traditional applied areas. The present research will look at nine non-traditional applied areas of psychology both individually and as a whole. To select the nine non-traditional areas we used two books: Psychology: Fields of Application (Stec & Bernstein, 1999) and Career Paths in Psychology: Where Your Degree Can Take You (Sternberg, 1997). For this research we also will compare the coverage of the nine non-traditional applied areas to the traditional applied areas.
A search of 10 publishers' websites resulted in 56 full-length and brief introductory psychology textbooks published from 2000 to 2003. We compared our list to a list of current introductory psychology textbooks by Koenig, Griggs, Marek, and Christopher (n.d.) and found that we both listed the same textbooks except for Gleitman, Fridlund, and Reisberg (1999) and Rathus (2000). They added the textbook by Gleitman et al. even though it was published in 1999 because the textbook is on a longer revision cycle. We added Gleitman et al. to our list, making 57 total textbooks. We did not add Rathus because of the textbook's non-traditional format; it is a build-your-own textbook where faculty can select the chapters they want to include. For a complete list of textbooks used please contact the first author. After making our master list of the 57 textbooks, we acquired all of the textbooks through the school library or by borrowing them from psychology professors.
Two of the four researchers evaluated each textbook. Before coding the textbooks, each researcher learned about content analysis and was trained on how to use the score sheet, developed by the authors. The results were evaluated for reliability and inter-rater reliability was found 98.73% of the time. Where there were inconsistencies, the researchers went back and re-reviewed the textbooks until there was complete agreement.
The coding procedure involved first recording the total number of pages of each textbook, not including the answer keys, appendices, glossary, indices, photo credits, or references. Second, the nine non-traditional applied psychology terms and traditional applied psychology terms (i.e., health and therapy) were searched for in the textbook glossaries. The term therapy was used instead of the terms clinical and counseling because most textbooks have two chapters devoted to the clinical/counseling field. The chapter usually called abnormal psychology often is more theoretical and the chapter usually called therapy is more applied. Third, the index of each textbook was evaluated to look for specific non-traditional and traditional applied psychology terms. Fourth, the page number(s) where the content for each area could be found was recorded. Then the researchers looked at those pages, as well as five pages before and after the page number(s) listed, for the non-traditional and traditional applied material. Finally, the number of pages with non-traditional and traditional applied psychology content was recorded by counting each page with any non-traditional applied and traditional applied psychology information as one page. This method of counting pages was followed to be consistent with prior research by Griggs et al. (1994, 1999).
The mean number of overall textbook pages was 602 (SD = 94 range = 361 to 850). Of the non-traditional applied areas: Educational, industrial-organizational, and school psychology were represented the most and average between 1 to 5 pages of content per textbook. Advertising, community, engineering, forensic, human factors, and sport psychology averaged less than 1 page per textbook. Each non-traditional applied area made up less than 1% of the content of the textbooks (see Table 1). Overall, all the non-traditional applied areas content made up 1.82% of textbook content.
In comparison to the non-traditional applied areas, the traditional applied areas: Health psychology and therapy accounted for 6.91% of textbook content. Health psychology averaged 15.11 pages per textbook and therapy averaged 25.53 pages per textbook (see Table 1).
One of the introductory psychology textbooks did not contain a glossary. Of the remaining 56, industrial-organizational psychology was the only non-traditional applied area represented in more than half of the glossaries (see Table 1). The rest of the non-traditional applied psychology areas were represented in less than 25% of the textbooks' glossaries. As for the traditional areas of psychology, health psychology was found in three out of four glossaries and the term therapy was found in just over half of the glossaries (see Table 1).
This study found the non-traditional applied psychological areas make up 1.82% of introductory psychology textbooks. This confirms Griggs et al. (1994, 1999) previous findings that the non-traditional applied areas of psychology make up little (e.g., about 2% with rounding) of the content of introductory psychology textbooks. However, we should note that we assessed nine non-traditional applied areas, whereas they only assessed two non-traditional applied areas. This means that currently more non-traditional applied areas are being covered still using only 2% of the content of the textbooks. The more traditional areas of psychology: Health psychology and therapy still receive much attention in introductory psychology textbooks with 6.91% of the material devoted to those areas.
The future of non-traditional applied psychology's representation is in jeopardy. Cush and Buskist (1997) surveyed editors from 12 college publishers who predicted that the number of introductory psychology textbooks would decrease in the future and that the textbooks with non-traditional applied material would be the first ones cut. Griggs et al. (1994) noted that due to increasing costs of introductory psychology textbooks, many professors are adopting brief version of these textbooks, and the brief versions often cut material that is not perceived to be the core of psychology, which usually involves the non-traditional applied areas.
To continue to improve the representation of the non-traditional applied areas in introductory psychology textbooks, several things can be done. First, psychology professors should select introductory psychology textbooks with greater representation of the non-traditional applied areas (see Table 2 for a list of authors and the number of pages devoted to each non-traditional applied area and the two traditional applied areas). By doing this they will be selecting a more thorough textbook and will be giving their students a more inclusive overview of the many subfields of psychology and fields of employment. They also will be sending a message to the publishers to publish textbooks with non-traditional applied psychology material. Second, psychology faculty should spend more time in their introductory psychology courses on the non-traditional applied psychological areas. If they do not feel comfortable covering these areas, they could bring in speakers holding applied psychology degrees or people who work in careers using applied psychology (Clay, 2001). Finally, psychology departments should consider teaching introductory psychology for two semesters. Griggs and Koenig (2001) noted that it is difficult to teach all the subfields of psychology in one semester and adding another semester would allow more time to cover material, including more of the non-traditional and traditional applied psychology topics, as well as more information about the traditional areas of psychology.
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Gleitman, H., Fridlund, A. J., & Reisberg, D. (1999). Psychology (5th ed.). New York: Norton.
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Maynard, D. C., Geberth, K. L., & Joseph, T. A. (2002). Coverage of industrial/organizational psychology in introductory psychology textbooks: An update. Teaching of Psychology, 29, 154-157.
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Rathus, S. A. (2000). Psychology: The core. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Stec, A. M., & Bernstein, D. (1999). Psychology: Fields of application. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Sternberg, R. J. (Ed.) (1997). Career paths in psychology: Where your degree can take you. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Author info: Correspondence should be sent to: Jennifer Lucas, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Agnes Scott College, 141 E. College Ave., Decatur, GA 30030. E-mail at email@example.com
Jennifer L. Lucas, Amber B. Raley, Christi Washington, & Melissa A. Blazek Agnes Scott College
TABLE 1 Representation of Applied Psychology Areas in Introductory Psychology Textbooks No. of No. of Content Pages Content Pages Applied % of Texts from Texts w/ from Texts w/ Psych. Areas with Content Text M Text SD Advertising Psych. 31.58% .84 1.45 Community Psych. 43.86% .95 1.43 Educational Psych. 64.91% 1.46 1.72 Engineering Psych. 26.32% .36 .78 Forensic Psych. 29.82% .33 .58 Health Psych. 87.70% 15.11 11.54 Human Factors 38.60% .70 1.25 I-O Psychology 78.95% 4.49 5.23 School Psych. 66.66% 1.14 1.14 Sport Psychology 38.60% .65 1.08 Therapy 94.30% 25.53 12.07 Average % of Applied Content Content in Psych. Areas Pages Range All Texts Term Advertising Psych. 0-5 .14% 0 of 56 Community Psych. 0-6 .16% 12 of 56 Educational Psych. 0-6 .24% 9 of 56 Engineering Psych. 0-4 .06% 5 of 56 Forensic Psych. 0-3 .05% 4 of 56 Health Psych. 0-41 2.49% 40 of 56 Human Factors 0-6 .12% 7 of 56 I-O Psychology 0-18 .75% 34 of 56 School Psych. 0-6 .19% 11 of 56 Sport Psychology 0-5 .11% 9 of 56 Therapy 0-57 4.24% 32 of 56 Term = Term in Glossary One of the 57 textbooks (Lefton, 2001) did not contain a glossary. most and averaged between 1 to 5 pages of content per textbook.…
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Publication information: Article title: Where Are the Non-Traditional Applied Areas of Psychology in Introductory Psychology Textbooks?. Contributors: Lucas, Jennifer L. - Author, Raley, Amber B. - Author, Washington, Christi - Author, Blazek, Melissa A. - Author. Journal title: North American Journal of Psychology. Volume: 7. Issue: 3 Publication date: December 2005. Page number: 379. © 2009 North American Journal of Psychology. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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