Psychologists conduct research on humans and animals to understand everything from the influence of personality on behavior to brain functions. They conduct research in laboratories and in the field -- in classrooms, businesses, homes, zoos and hospitals. Students can get help finding research ideas from classes in research methods and experimental psychology, and from their professors.
Students interested in developmental psychology can find topics for research proposals in classes on adolescent, child or lifetime development. Among potential topics are how anorexia affects the family, the impact of child abuse and neglect on temperament, the effect of children's temperament on maternal attachment, the impact of authoritarian supervision on adolescent development, the impact of temperament on feelings of guilt, the impact of moral atmosphere on development of guilt, the impact of attractiveness on sibling interactions, the impact of child's temperament on family interactions, and gender role changes during adolescence.
Students interested in social psychology have a wealth of topics for research. For example, they can research how the behavior of a victim influences helping behavior, whether distractions decrease bystander intervention, how the attractiveness of individuals influences perceptions of their personalities, whether prejudice influences hiring decisions, how long-term relationships change love for a partner, or people's perception of appropriate jobs for men and women.
Psychology and Law
People interested psychology and law can find many topics for research in areas related to the legal system. Among potential research topics are how the attractiveness of a defendant influences jury decisions, whether jurors believe an older child witness more than a younger child witness, whether people are more likely to believe a minority is guilty than a white defendant, whether the gender of a victim influences perceptions of responsibility, and whether jurors are more likely to believe a police officer or a minister who is a witness.
There are many topics for research in health psychology, such as the impact of teenage pregnancy on education, personality variables that influence substance abuse, social influences on why people exercise and social influences on risky sexual behavior. Other topics include why people smoke, what factors influence how well patients follow advice of physicians, how to increase healthy habits, and the influence of pain on personality.
Psychologists conduct research on animals to understand people and animals. Some topics for research on animals are: the impact of reinforcement schedule on behavior, the impact of pain on learned helplessness, how animals adapt to change, and how early experience influences levels of cognition.
- American Psychology Association: Education
- "Child Development"; Thomas Berndt, Ph.D.; 1997
- "Social Psychology": David Myers, Ph.D.; 2002
- "Forensic Psychology"; Lawrence Wrightsman, Ph.D. and Solomon Fulero, Ph.D., J.D.; 2005
- American Psychological Association: Animal Research
Linda Foley has been writing about psychology and the justice system since 1974. Her articles have been published in the "Journal of Forensic Psychology," "Trial Lawyer" and the "Journal of Social Behavior and Personality." Foley holds a Doctor of Philosophy in social psychology from the University of Florida.