Philosophers of science often distinguish between basic science and applied science. In basic research (sometimes called pure research), scientists extend our general understanding by testing theoretically important hypotheses. They ask, “Let’s compare what is with what should be to see if the theory is adequate.” Applied researchers, in contrast, seek information that will let them solve practical problems. They ask, “Let’s understand the nature of this problem so we can do something to solve it.”
Social and personality psychologists strive to combine elements of both basic and applied research in their studies of social behavior. Kurt Lewin, one of the early founders of the field of personality and social psychology, labeled this mixture action research. He felt that social problems, including conflict, leadership, and group performance, should be solved scientifically for there “is no hope of creating a better world without a deeper scientific insight into the function of leadership and culture” and other essentials of social life (Lewin, 1943, p. 113).
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