What makes a research finding important?

What makes a research finding important, is whether the knowledge we have gained can influence positive changes in society. For example, the discovery that one psychological therapy is much more effective than others of it’s kind, might cause us to administer that therapy to more patients, improving more people’s quality of life.

            A key example is that of Albert Bandura’s famous Bobo doll study. The study found that children would act more aggressively and violently towards a blow up doll, after they had seen a video of an adult behave the same way than if they had seen an adult play with the doll in a non aggressive way. The overall findings of this study were that children had a strong tendency to imitate what they saw, especially if the adult was of the same sex as them. These findings sparked the beginnings of more research into the effects on violent media on children, and increased public awareness of susceptibility of children to what they are exposed to, and may have prevented many violent crimes from happening. Therefore Bandura’s study was vastly important, for both furthering our knowledge of human behaviour, and making changes in society.

            In a way, all research findings are important, it is important to further our knowledge of human behaviour, even if there are no implications. Therefore, maybe the least important research findings are those that prove something that has already been proven. Although in some ways they are useful in strengthening a theory, they have little to offer us, as psychologists, and the wider society. 

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10 Responses to What makes a research finding important?

  1. amandasau says:

    I really agree with all the points in the blog, especially as to whether or not it can make a difference to society. Although, there are times when the finding doesn’t have to make a positive contribution in order to be important. For example, Milgram’s (1963) electric shock experiment. The findings didn’t reflect humanity in a positive way, but they provided a vital insight into how far the average human will go in order to obey an authority figure. Then again, the outcome wasn’t meant to be positive as the experiment was mainly conducted to investigate the events took place in Nazi Germany.

    • petulat says:

      A really good point! What i meant by a ‘positive contribution’ to society, was a finding that furthers our knowledge and influences changes, whether it reflects humanity in a positive or negative way. Milgram’s findings may not have reflected humanity in a positive way, but they may help us avoid a situation where people do bad things when mindlessly following an authority figure. For example, inspections being carried out in institutions, or educating individuals on how far they should follow orders.

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  3. psucd8 says:

    Although I agree that research which has direct positive impacts on society is very important, I do not believe that this is the only type of research which is important. The significance of negative results, otherwise known as non-significant data, is underrated. Many people think that because the results are not significant then they are not important and don’t impact on society, however I disagree with this. It may appear as if these type of results do not influence research much or progress science however if these results were published more often then it would reduce the amount of almost identical studies which are done and find non-significant results and remain unpublished, which could save society a lot of money in funding these experiments (Rice, 2011).

    Research showing non-significant results also indicate to researchers what methods and techniques and conditions are not suitable for a specific study so that they can avoid using these methods in their own experiments therefore they are more likely to create a study which either obtains significant results, or which obtains non-significant results and can dismiss another method of research. Awareness of the importance of negative results is increasing, and there are now journals dedicated to publishing these kinds of results, such as the Journal of Negative Results and for psychology The Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis. Any material can help progress science and can lead future research to stem from it, therefore I think that all research should be considered important.

    Rice: http://curt-rice.com/2011/07/21/negative-results-are-important-research-europe/

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  5. prpsjj says:

    I agree with your conclusion to be all research findings are important yes some may have a wider impact on society but as Sir Francis Bacon said “Knowledge is power” so any finding how small or big how bigger impact it has on us it is still important because it still gives us knowledge. Furthermore just because we don’t find a finding that important how are we to know that others will not. We can’t just not publish findings because we feel they are insignificant to society because we have no idea who else will find them important. Also findings often build on one another, for example one finding could help find another one so if the original finding had be rejected as not important then the secondary finding that was only found because of the original one may not have been found and that might have (as you say) a massive positive change on society. So yes I feel that all findings are important.

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  7. liamjw91 says:

    Importance is such a subjective term that its difficult to put a value on a piece of research meaning that comparing research saying that 1 is more important than the other is tough. After all researchers will always see their own work as being important or they wouldn’t have commited time and effort into running the study. Having said this in one of my old blogs I considered a few ways to tell if research was important and i came up 3 ways; 1)How much the research affects people, 2) How many people it affects, 3) Is it a new finding which could lead to further research.

  8. psud63 says:

    Really interesting blog, i do agree with your final point that maybe research that just proves and supports another piece of research are least important to us – although we do have to consider that without these we wouldn’t be 100% sure whether the findings in that one experiment were a one off, so replication can be useful in that sense. I think what makes a finding important is something that has useful real world implications and affects us as a society, for example finding out that smoking causes lung cancer.

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