Controversial applications of psychological research
There is an increasing awareness within the psychological community and amongst the general public of the power of psychological knowledge to affect people’s lives and bring about change. As we shall see in connection with clinical applications of research and with animal research (see Chapter 5) this knowledge can be of great benefit to people. This chapter considers two further areas of psychology where the application of psychological knowledge is particularly controversial. The first section examines the application of psychological research to advertising, propaganda and warfare, and the second section considers controversies surrounding the use of psychometric tests (such as those used to measure intelligence or personality). In each case, there is great potential for good but also for harm. Psychologists are in a strong position to let people know about these influences so that they can understand what is happening and make informed decisions for themselves about how to act.
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- Pratkanis, A. and Aronson, E. (1991). The Age of Propaganda: Everyday Uses and Abuses of Persuasion. New York: Freeman. A very readable text, which highlights the theory and practice of persuasion and propaganda with lavish use of illustrative examples.Google Scholar
- Watson, P. (1978). War on the Mind. New York: Basic Books. One of the few textbooks written in this area. The material is rather dated, but it does give an impression of the many ways in which psychology can be applied to aspects of war.Google Scholar
- Kaplan, R.M. and Saccuzzo, D.P. (1989). Psychological Testing: Principles, Applications and Issues, 2nd edn. California: Brooks Cole. Contains very useful chapters on the controversies surrounding psychometric testing.Google Scholar
- Kline, P. (1992). Psychometric Testing in Personnel Selection and Appraisal. London: Croner. A small specialist book, which provides good background on the nature and uses of psychometric tests.Google Scholar