Where Are the Non-Traditional Applied Areas of Psychology in Introductory Psychology Textbooks?

By Lucas, Jennifer L.; Raley, Amber B. et al. | North American Journal of Psychology, December 2005 | Go to article overview

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.

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