Trends and research in psychology - Psychology Essay Example


This paper discusses the current trends in psychology and the approaches used in research - Trends and research in psychology introduction. While trends refer to the general direction of orientation or inclination, research is the scientific way of answering questions and testing hypotheses. Research is based on either a quantitative or a qualitative approach as will be discussed later in this paper. According to John (2008), psychology is currently focusing on ecopsychology, where ecotherapists provide psychological uplift in wilderness experience; some now take clients outdoors, while others take groups like juvenile offenders, battered wives or alcoholics into the wild on extended pilgrimages. By far, clinical psychology is considered the major specialty field for psychologists, with psychology being one of the most popular college majors. The other major areas of employment in psychology are developmental psychology and counseling while minor fields include educational psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, and social psychology.


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Moreover, psychology of persuasion is now widely utilized to influence people by exploiting current trends or their passions. Garcia, Hoffman, & Kwong (2001) assert that to achieve instant persuasion using trends, people associate their company, product, service or opinion with the current trends such as World Football Cup or an Olympic event. On the other hand, instant persuasion using passions associates the prospect’s passion with a product or service after knowing what the prospect values to have a clue of their passions.

Trends and research in psychology

Being that information technology is advancing fast, psychology is steadily catching up with its advancements, which have made both psychology a discipline and a phenomenon of interest to researchers. These phenomena include social groups on the internet, internet psychotherapy and the effects of information technology development on counseling and psychotherapy. Moreover, it is blamed for psychopathology and addiction to pornography and gambling on the internet, which are gaining much attention both in the public and in expert psychological circles.

Recently, there has been much concern about the promotion of individualism, and whether psychologists are following individualistic trends (Garcia, 2001). Actually, psychologists do differ in their individualistic preference, from university professors to students, in terms of how they view individuals’ difficulties. According to findings, some emphasize individualism whereas others assert social embeddedness and responsibility. In psychology, research focuses on abstract rather than tangible phenomena. The word concept is used to mean an abstraction or mental representation inferred from situations or behaviors. Aida & Elsoud (2008) define the concept theory in research as a systematic, abstract explanation of reality where concepts are knitted together into a coherent system to describe an aspect of the world and generate particular prediction that can be tested empirically.

Variables refer to aspects of humans and their environment that vary – weight, anxiety level, income, and body temperature. Research seeks to reveal how or why things vary and to discover how differences in one variable are related to another. Variables are of diverse categories. To begin with, there are continuous, discrete and categorical variables, which take on a wide range of values. By way of example, a person’s age can range from zero to values greater than a hundred.  Secondly, discrete variables have a finite number of values between any two points and represent discrete quantities, such as the number of children that one has (Aida, 2008). Thirdly, categorical variables take on small range of values that do not inherently represent a quantity, such as gender – male or female. Fourthly, active versus attribute variables are often characteristics of research subjects, such as their age, health beliefs, or weight. Fifthly, there also exists dependent and independent variables. Variability in the dependent variable is presumed to depend on variability in the independent variable (Aida, 2008). Consider a study investigating the extent of lung cancer’s (the dependent variable) dependence on smoking (the independent variable).

Research is done using either a qualitative or a qualitative approach. This section seeks to bring out the contrast between these two approaches. With this in mind, the quantitative approach views human phenomena as being amenable to objective study. This approach involves data collection methods such as structured questionnaires, interviews, and observations together with other tools. On the other hand, in-depth interviews and unstructured observations are associated with qualitative research.

While quantitative research deals with quantities and numbers, qualitative research deals with quality and description (Mohamed, 2006). The purpose of quantitative research is to measure concepts or variables that are predetermined objectively as well as to examine the relationship between them numerically and statistically while fulfilling the criteria namely validity, objectivity, accuracy and precision. Plainly put, quantitative research can provide data to describe the distribution of a characteristic or attribute in a population and explore their causes and relationship. Therefore, this approach is described as producing generalizable findings through randomization and representative sampling.

Albeit, quantitative research is limited by the fact that it is difficult to understand human phenomena, as it is only possible to study observable behavior. Furthermore, many influences affect people’s responses to questions making findings not purely objective, while different participants may interpret standardized scales differently. As with qualitative research, researchers seek to understand, by means of exploration, human experience, perceptions, motivations, the intentions and behavior of humans. It is therefore interactive, inductive, flexile, holistic and reflexive method of data collection and analysis.

Exploration, the main feature of qualitative research, helps researchers understand the perceptions and actions of participants (Aida, 2008). It needs to be inductive, interactive, reflexive and holistic. The inductive approach is useful in developing concepts and generating hypothesis and is especially important when little is known about the topics one wants to study. Comparatively, the interactive and reflexive nature of the approach helps avoid bias by studying phenomena in a detached way. Herein, researchers probe, facilitate, and note tone, hesitations and repetition in participants’ responses.

As opposed to quantitative research where the researcher is restrained by a number of variables to be studied, participants in qualitative research are allowed to put in their responses and concerns in context. Correspondingly, flexile, imaginative, creative and varied strategies are employed in qualitative studies through one-to-one interviews, observations, letters, diaries, and group discussions to get into the personal, intimate and private world of the participants.

Unlike quantitative research, qualitative research uses ethnography, phenomenology, discourse analysis and grounded theory as its main approaches. Ethnography collects human data in their natural environment to know the causes of their behavior. Phenomenology focuses on individuals’ explanations of their experience and personal expression. Discourse analysis describes the verbal, non-verbal, and written systems of communication, while grounded theory refines data to retrieve theories and hypotheses.  Finally, just as with quantitative research, qualitative research methods also have limitations in that they are anecdotal, unscientific, impressionistic, subjective, and produce findings that are not generalizable.



Considering the complex human nature, thorough, accurate, reliable and holistic approaches are needed in all fields of research. Yet, while some researchers describe qualitative research as noble, good, and empowering, others think it is story-telling, feely, biased, subjective, lacking reliability, validity and generalization. Despite this, combining both approaches has various advantages. The combination helps develop and enhance the validity of scales, questionnaires and tools, helps develop, implement and evaluate interventions, and assists in further exploration and testing. It also allows use of studying of different aspects of the same topics, exploration of complex human phenomena from different perspectives, as well as confirmation and cross-validation of data.


Garcia P.A., Hoffman G. H., and Kwong S. S. (2001). Redefining therapeutic success with virtual reality exposure therapy.  New York: Free Press.

Aida A. and Elsoud A. (2008). Key concepts and terms in qualitative and quantitative research. Retrieved on 22ndJuly, 2010. <>

Mohammed E. (2006). Quantitative and qualitative research: Sampling methods. Retrieved on 22nd July, 2010. <>

John T. W., (2008). Current trends in psychology and the behavioral sciences. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.



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